Reversing Climate Change Policies

By Elizabeth E. Payne

On March 28, President Trump signed an executive order reversing much of the progress President Obama made towards addressing the realities of climate change. With this action, Trump ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to abandon the Clean Power Plan, reopened federal lands for coal mining and eliminated the requirement that federal agencies consider climate impacts in their decision-making.

The Clean Power Plan would have limited the carbon dioxide emissions permitted from coal-fired power plants. But the regulation was held up in court and never enacted.
Trump was surrounded by coal miners when he signed the order and said the change would put miners back to work.

But increased dependence on natural gas and mechanization of the industry, not the unenforced regulation, has led to the loss in coal jobs, according to a number of experts such as Michael E. Webber, the deputy director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas.

Even Trump supporters doubt how much this can help. “I really don’t know how far the coal industry can be brought back,” said Robert E. Murray, chief executive of Murray Energy, after the signing.

The executive order did not comment on the United States’ commitment to the Paris climate agreement signed in August 2016. But the new steps outlined in the order made clear that the current administration has abandoned efforts to meet those emission reduction targets.

The Paris agreement set a goal for keeping the rise in global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius, the level at which some of the most disastrous impacts of climate change would take effect.


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