Scientists have warned in a major new report that the progressively rapid melting of Arctic ice has the potential to be permanent and have consequences that are severe not just for Arctic ecosystems, but for the entire planet.
“The warning signals are getting louder,” said Marcus Carson of the Stockholm Environment Institute and one of the lead authors of the report, adding that these developments “also make the potential for triggering [tipping points] and feedback loops much larger.”
Researchers watching Arctic weather stations and satellites recently became alarmed when they found that it is currently about 20°C warmer over most of the Arctic Ocean, unheard of at this time of year.
As President-elect Donald Trump rolls out a frightening group of fossil fuel-loving, climate change-denying cabinet appointments, it has becomes clear that he’s not only ignoring the gathering warning signs, he’s happy to roll back many, if not all advancements to fight the effects of climate change. Here’s a look at Trump’s anti-climate, anti-environment rogues gallery.
- Mike Pence, Vice President
Indiana Governor Mike Pence has said some pretty absurd things about climate change, going back more than 10 years. On his 2001 campaign site, he voiced his disagreement with the scientific accord that climate change is real and man-made, calling global warming a “myth” and claiming that the planet is “actually cooler than it was 50 years ago.”
During his time in the House, Pence constantly voted against any legislation planned to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including a carbon cap-and-trade bill in 2009, and in 2011 he supported a bill to limit the EPA’s capacity to regulate such emissions. An outspoken supporter of the coal industry, Pence said in his 2015 State of the State address, “Indiana is a pro-coal state … we must continue to oppose the overreaching schemes of the EPA until we bring their war on coal to end.”
- Ryan Zinke, Secretary of Interior nominee
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), a freshman congressman, is a steadfast supporter of fossil fuel and one of the most anti-environment lawmakers on Capitol Hill, scoring a shocking 3 percent lifetime score on the League of Conservation Voters’ National Environment Scorecard. It’s no surprise that his campaign was generously backed by the oil and gas lobby. Oasis Petroleum, a Texas-based petroleum and natural gas exploration and production company, is his largest campaign contributor and the oil and gas industry is his third-largest sector contributor.
Zinke co-sponsored the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, a bill to hasten pipeline approval by instituting mandatory deadlines for federal agencies to review natural gas infrastructure projects. He supports the rapid building of Northwest coal export terminals. He has also demonstrated a blatant disregard for the treaty rights of native tribes when they interfere with the construction of coal terminals.
- Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce nominee
On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump made big promises to coal miners, many of whom have lost their jobs as the industry collapses. But his commitment to out-of-work miners has faltered, as his pick for Commerce Secretary is Wilbur Ross Jr., a New York billionaire who owned the now-defunct Sago mine in West Virginia where 12 miners were killed in an explosion in 2006.
Ross made his fortune re-building troubled companies across a variety of industries, including telecommunications, textiles, steel and coal. Initially he claimed he wasn’t involved in Sago’s day-to-day operational management, but later admitted he knew about the violations, and simply dismissed them.
In 2005, the Sago fines amounted to about $96,000, a slap on the wrist for maintaining what was basically a death trap. “Such ‘enforcement’ has a warning effect akin to punishing drunk driving with fines of a few nickels,” remarked Jeff Milchen, director of ReclaimDemocracy.org, a few days after the disaster.
On the campaign trail, Trump described himself as the “last shot for the miners,” saying he would be “an unbelievable positive.” But the only thing that is unbelievable about Trump’s position on coal mining is that he may put a negligent CEO in charge of the federal department whose mission is, in part, improving the living standards of Americans through “sustainable development.”
- Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy Nominee
Trump’s selection for the energy department, Rick Perry, is particularly ironic, as the former Texas governor said during his 2012 presidential bid that he wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy altogether. Most notably, Perry is a board member of Energy Transfer Partners, owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
As the governor of Texas, Perry adopted an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy production, making the Lone Star state a leader not only in oil and gas, but also wind power and renewable energy investment. Still, environmentalists have serious concerns. “Perry is a climate change denier, opposes renewable energy even as it has boomed in Texas, and doesn’t even believe CO2 is a pollutant,” League of Conservation Voters president Gene Karpinski said. “Not only that, he is deep in the pocket of Big Polluters, who have contributed over $2.5 million to his presidential campaigns, a disturbing sign that they expected him to protect their profits in office, not do what’s best for the American people.”
- Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State nominee
Rex Tillerson has been working at ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly traded international oil and gas company, for more than four decades. Since 2006, he’s been the chairman and CEO of the company. The Economist reported this week that Tillerson’s background in engineering “makes him a stickler for evidence-based decision-making.” But when it comes to climate, reputation isn’t reality, as Exxon has made decisions that ignore the scientific evidence of climate change. The company has been the focus of a historic investigation by a coalition of state attorneys general regarding claims that it intentionally misled investors and the public about the negative impact its business has on the planet’s climate.
Adding to the concern about Tillerson is the fact that he has a worryingly cozy relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin. One deal that the two worked on in particular has raised alarm: a $500 billion oil exploration partnership between Exxon and Rosneft, the Russian government’s oil firm. While that deal was blocked when the Obama administration imposed sanctions against Russia for its Ukraine intervention, Tillerson, as Secretary of State, could lift those sanctions. “Imagine,” writes Joe Romm, founding editor of Climate Progress, “if the oil giant is freed to produce and sell oil on the staggering 63.7 million acres of Russian land it leases, which is over 5 times the amount of land it leases in this country. Happy days are here again, for Exxon.”
Sit-Ins Planned Against Climate-Denial Cabinet
Trump’s recent nominations continue “a pattern of choosing cabinet members unabashedly hostile to the agency each has been anointed to lead, unwilling to follow the laws Congress has charged their agency with administering, and unwilling to allow science to guide his agency’s decisions. This is more reckless than extreme partisanship and more dangerous than overblown rhetoric. It puts every American on notice that the rule of law is in peril.”
“Donald Trump’s cabinet picks are shaping up to be a who’s who of climate denialists, Wall Street bankers, corporate CEOs, and oil barons,” said Lawrence-Samuel. “If approved, these choices would represent an unprecedented level of corporate control over our democracy. Congress must block these appointments in order to protect human rights, the environment and our democracy at large.”
Activists are mobilizing. “Activities will ramp up in the new year, with a national day of action targeting Senate offices across the country on January 9,” according to 350.org. “Activists are already laying the groundwork for not only lobby visits, but also sit-ins, protests, and creative actions to target key senators who say they recognize the threat of climate change, but haven’t yet come out against Pruitt and other deniers in the cabinet.”
“Senators are delusional if they think their constituents support appointing a climate denier to run the EPA or the CEO of ExxonMobil to head the State Department,” said Jason Kowalski, 350.org policy director. “Take a state like Maine, where 74 percent of voters support EPA actions to protect the environment. There is no way Senator Collins can get away with a vote for Pruitt and not come across as a sellout to the fossil fuel industry.”
Before Thanksgiving, The Economist offered some helpful advice: “Pay more attention to what the president-elect does than to what he says. His choice of cabinet appointees certainly makes for better evidence than old tweets.” Less than a month later, we have all the evidence we need: Trump has declared all-out war on the environment.