Why doesn't Trump care about climate change

USA under TrumpEnvironmental protection as a scapegoat

A sunny day in the rose garden behind the White House. The Marines jazz band is playing, the president's desk is ready: After much back and forth, Donald Trump wants to announce how the Paris climate protection agreement should go ahead:

"I don't want anything to get in our way. I fight every day for the great people of this country. In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the US will withdraw from the Paris Agreement."

The visitors to the ceremony clapped and cheered - otherwise the mood in political Washington was rather depressed: the heads of large US companies had warned the president not to withdraw from the agreement. The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, spoke of an error of historic proportions.

The French President invited American climate experts in English to come to France - their second home. Germany, China, the United Nations - Trump's withdrawal has been criticized around the world. This will be felt again at the G20 summit in Hamburg.

Trump: "Climate Agreement Disadvantages US Economically"

The President was not deterred by this, on the contrary: For him it was not just about the environment, about the climate, for him it was about America's future: "This agreement is less about the climate, but more about the fact that other countries unite Got a financial advantage over the US. The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris Accords. They freaked out! For the simple reason that the US, our country we all love, is economically very disadvantaged. "

Trump complained that the US had to significantly reduce its CO2 emissions, while China was the world's largest CO2 producer. His mantra: We are disadvantaged while the others just keep going. However: China leads the CO2 statistics, but the USA produces far more CO2 per capita. In addition, China has only grown significantly in recent years and caught up with the USA.

Experts had pointed out that the member states of the agreement could decide for themselves what they want to do for climate protection, that there is no mechanism for legal action if countries violate their own guidelines. It was not without reason that an influential faction on the President's advisory staff had tried for weeks to convince him not to get out - if only to keep a chair at the climate advisory table.

But: In the end, Trump listened to the nationalist faction: "America first" prevailed: "My job as President is to give America equal opportunities. To create structures for the economy, rules and taxes that make America the most prosperous and productive country on earth. With the highest standard of living and the highest environmental protection standard. "

"Trump doesn't care about the environment"

At the end of April, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Washington and many other cities to demonstrate for climate protection and against the policies of the Trump administration. They shouted "Shame" in front of the Trump Hotel.

Eric Schaeffer heads the environmental protection organization "Environmental Integrity Project". He worked for the EPA for several years, in a managerial position. Now he is visibly suffering from the new president: "He is deeply ignorant, does not care about laws, the environment, science, facts - unless they confirm his prejudices. We are dealing with a really irrational government."

Thousands of demonstrators protest in Washington for more climate protection. (dpa / picture alliance / Poblo Martinez Monsivais)
Schaeffer also criticized the Obama administration for its hesitant stance on many climate protection issues: But at least it did something. Schaeffer sees itself on the one hand with over 97 percent of science: Countless studies have shown that the earth is warming and that humans play a decisive role in this. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has called climate change a hoax - invented by the Chinese to harm the American economy:

"Simply to say: The world is flat, and that's why I don't have ships because I don't want to fall - what do you do with it? If you show that you understand science, then at least you can discuss it. You can't debate with these people . You are beyond all reason. "

Doubts about man-made climate change

The dispute has been going on for years. Many Republicans reject the scientific consensus that it is man's fault that the earth is getting warmer. In February 2015, Republican Senator Jim Inhofe brought a snowball to the Senate to show that the earth is not getting warmer. The Republican resistance was one reason why the Obama administration made legal twists and turns on the Paris climate protection agreement so that it would not have to be approved by the Senate.

Do you believe in man-made climate change? That has become the crucial question. Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders introduced them to Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA: "You said Mr. Trump was wrong when he kept saying that climate change was a hoax. Right?"

"Do you think that climate change is caused by man-made CO2 emissions?"

"Senator, like I said at the beginning, the climate is changing, human activity is contributing, in some way."

Scott Pruitt is a proponent of a conservative view of climate change. He doesn't deny it, but he doubts the problem is as bad as it is always said to be. Nick Loris from the conservative Heritage Foundation was one of the pioneers of this view. He deals with energy and the environment and repeatedly debates with scientists and liberal environmentalists:

"When I look at climate science, I don't think we're heading for a climate catastrophe. Sea levels may rise, but I doubt there'll be a six-meter or 30-meter rise. I don't think that Scare tactics helps. I don't think denial helps either. I want a more transparent, objective debate. "

"It can help to adapt to a changing climate"

Loris advocates "environmental protection of the free market". He is against regulation, which drives up costs and does little for the environment. It is for more private property - because what you own you want to protect. At its core it is a question: "How can you protect the environment at the lowest possible cost?"

The far-reaching Paris climate protection agreement with the extensive accompanying laws that were passed in the USA does not fit in with this. Under the Obama administration, Nick Loris was marginalized with his concepts. Now the picture has changed: the Heritage Foundation he works for has become an important think tank for the Trump administration. The first budget drafts, for example, looked like they had been more or less written off of heritage papers. Loris' analyzes of how environmental budgets can be cut are now pointing the way.

Scott Pruitt is the new chief of the EPA and an advocate for a conservative view of climate change. (dpa / picture alliance / Anthony Behar)

If Trump prefers to talk about economic growth rather than climate protection, that is not a contradiction for Nick Loris. Economic growth can finance environmental protection - and help offset the consequences of climate change, for example:

"When countries have more resources and wealth, they can deal with such problems. It can help adapt to a changing climate. Access to air conditioning in a heat wave, warmth in a cold wave. This is how we adapted to the climate, the number the number of deaths from the climate has fallen sharply. We can use the resources to build protective walls against floods and more stable buildings against natural disasters when they happen. "

The head of the environmental protection agency advised to end the climate agreement

Climate protection instead of drinking water, destroyed companies and jobs, the visitation of farmers - for Trump and for many conservatives, the EPA stands for everything that goes wrong in the country. The EPA has been around since 1970 and has around 15,000 employees. It draws up environmental protection rules and enforces them. In the past few years it has gotten more and more bite. Volkswagen, for example, felt this: The harsh fines in the diesel scandal were enforced by the EPA, among others.

Under President Obama, the EPA worked on comprehensive laws to protect water and air, on strict rules for power plants. Then came the choice. President Trump chose Scott Pruitt as the new EPA boss. Even though he is the head of the environmental protection agency - Pruitt was the driving force behind Trump's decision to leave the climate protection agreement: "Your decision to withdraw from the Paris climate protection agreement proves your firm commitment to move America forward. You fulfill another election promise. Me I am grateful for your bravery, your courage, your steadfastness with which you lead our country. "

Republican Pruitt was previously Attorney General in Oklahoma. Pruitt is a longtime critic of the EPA - he has sued the agency 14 times. Also because of rules that didn't apply to Oklahoma at all. Pruitt keeps making an argument that has less to do with environmental protection and more to do with the constitution: For him - and other conservative critics - the EPA is an example of how the federal government here in Washington is gaining more and more influence and power State cost. The debate here in the US is partly reminiscent of debates in Europe when it comes to the influence of the EU bureaucracy.

Nick Loris from the Heritage Foundation describes the conservative goal as follows: "We want clean air and clean water, but we want to go back to the idea of ​​'cooperative federalism': away from the dictates of the EPA, we want to give states and regions the right to do so They are more accessible to their citizens' concerns, economically, but also in terms of environmental protection. Each state has its own Ministry of the Environment, so many responsibilities can be delegated to states. "

The power of the EPA

The argument: It is not bureaucrats in distant Washington who should decide how rivers are kept clean, which landscapes are protected - that's what the local people should do: "The majority of Americans don't want their gardens to be polluted, it's about how to do it that is best enforced. "

"Overreach" - that is the rallying cry of conservative EPA critics. EPA veterans like Eric Schaeffer deny this allegation. The EPA has a duty to enact comprehensive rules. If you think it is going too far, the courts can ask: "That is not decided by far-right blogs or conservative commentators. If you have a problem with what the EPA is doing, then you can sue. Courts decide whether the EPA acted lawfully or not. "

The EPA held the BP oil company accountable after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in April 2010. (picture alliance / dpa / US Coast Guard)
In fact, there are regular lawsuits against the EPA - from environmentalists who believe the agency is doing too little - but mostly from corporations and states who believe the agency is doing too much. For example, the agency's ambitious clean air plan was stopped in court during the time of President Obama. On the other hand, the EPA is the authority that holds polluters accountable. For example the oil company BP, after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform.

Schaeffer is convinced: "These are multinational corporations, definitely multistate ones. The EPA is the only authority big enough to mess with these companies and demand that standards are adhered to. If you take the EPA off the stage, then you have states like North Dakota or Texas. Sometimes they don't have the technical skills, but mostly they don't have the political will to regulate these industries responsibly. "

Trump: New drilling rights bring jobs back

In late April, Trump signed another order to end what he said was another outrageous abuse of federal power. It was about the president's right to declare nature reserves. President Obama used it to protect thousands of square kilometers. This means that they cannot be accessed by oil and gas producers, for example. The Trump administration now wants to review these new protected areas - and possibly trim them again.

In his first few weeks in office, Trump cleared the way for oil pipelines, for mines so that they could discharge wastewater back into nearby rivers, and had new drilling rights off the coasts examined. His promise: If the restrictions fall, lost jobs will come back to the US.

"To promise these tormented places that the abolition of the water law and clean air rules will bring them new, well-paid industrial jobs is a lie." The environmentalist Eric Schaeffer quoted statistics from the Ministry of Labor: Regulation is rarely a reason to fire people. The main reason is: automation. Factories need fewer people than before, mines employ fewer miners.

Schaeffer also admits that the climate protection debates of the past few years have passed over people's heads. Why worry about sea level in a few years when thousands of jobs are going to be lost in your hometown now? Climate change has become an issue for the elite.

"We have to deal with environmental issues that have a direct impact on people. That works with fossil fuels: We have mountains of coal ash. Poisons from it make drinking water undrinkable, toxic metals get into rivers, there is air pollution. Fracking overruns people, rural areas who had a peaceful lifestyle. "

Environmental regulations cannot simply be removed, laws have to be changed, and that requires majorities. The mills grind slowly - that can also be an advantage, says Eric Schaeffer:

"We have a lot of checks and balances in our system. If you want to achieve something, it can be very frustrating. If you want to stop something bad, it can be very helpful. At the moment we are trying to prevent bad things. We hope that we can do enough Buying time to lessen the damage, to make sure this government doesn't have a long-lasting impact. "

Funds for environmental authorities are being cut

Nick Loris from the Heritage Foundation, on the other hand, hopes that the Trump administration will actually carry out the paradigm shift he has written: "We - I shouldn't say 'we' - the Trump administration is still in the process of getting the ball rolling. To equip the authorities with employees. It remains to be seen how that will develop and what they can take back. "

After all, the Trump administration has already launched the major attack. In the budget draft, for example, the funds for the environmental agency EPA are massively cut: They should receive 30 percent less money. That would be the smallest budget in 40 years. Over 3,000 jobs are to be cut. Above all, the department that takes care of the enforcement of environmental regulations is to be cut. Well - that's just a suggestion for now. Congress has the final say on the budget, and experts believe that it will not cut as much as the President proposed.

US President Donald Trump had his predecessor Barack Obama's climate protection plans softened by decree. (AFP / JIM WATSON)

But it is still fatal for the morale of the agency. The new EPO boss is already easing requirements and regulations. There are also setbacks for climate research: The EPA has taken databases with measured values ​​from the Internet. Before the change of government, scientists had tried frantically to copy and thus secure data. You have to give Donald Trump one thing: he never kept his plans a secret. In the election campaign, he even announced that he would close the EPA completely. It's about jobs, it's about growth, it's about military strength. Not about environmental protection.

Trump once said he was for a cleaner environment. He didn't say how he wants to achieve this: "The US under the Trump administration will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on earth. We have the cleanest air, the cleanest water, we will be environmentally friendly. But we will not close our companies, lose jobs - we will grow! "