Trump administration moving 'backwards' on climate issues, says former Obama energy advisor

A former senior energy adviser to President Obama believes President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll The Memo: Cohen fans flames around Trump Memo Comey used to brief Trump on dossier released: report MORE's administration needs to take the latest reports on climate change more seriously, arguing the White House is moving "backwards” on progress made under the previous administration.

Elgie Holstein, now a Senior Director for Strategic Planning at the left-leaning Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), said he’s concerned about the number of Obama-era regulations that Trump is rolling back, including easing restrictions on coal plants.

“The missing ingredient is leadership,” said Holstein said during an interview that aired on Thursday, mentioning some issues the Trump government is rolling back including greenhouse gas emissions.

"That's going backwards," he noted, while also saying: "We need to take these scientists’ word very seriously and move forward."

Following the White House’s own climate change report earlier in November, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday released a report on climate change detailing the public health benefits that could come with addressing the impact of climate change.

The report found that adhering to the commitments of the 2015 Paris climate agreement could save more than 1 million lives a year from air pollution alone by 2050. The analysis found that the value of health gains would be almost twice the cost of the policies.

Holstein underscored the importance of these findings, saying the health effects of climate change are every bit as real and threatening as the physical threats, such as wildfires and hurricanes.

“Many of the greenhouse gas emissions that come for example, from coal fired power plants, are accompanied by lots of other chemicals and pollutants that are harmful to humans, to children and to older people,” he said.

In order to combat these effects, the former Obama adviser thinks the U.S. needs to become more resilient when it comes to adapting to climate change. He said this means actively working towards cutting emissions by roughly half between now and about 2030. 

Holstein added more action on climate change should also include providing support to communities in areas like West Virginia, whose local citizens often depend on the coal industry for jobs. 

“We can’t take some sort of elitist approach where we say your job doesn’t matter anymore — what we do need to provide is assistance to those communities that are particularly dependent, for example, on coal mining,” he told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball.

The nation’s coal consumption in 2018 is expected to drop to its lowest level in 39 years, according to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

– Tess Bonn