Opinion | Energy & Environment

Press: Trump turns out light on climate change talk

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

It's about time. Serious concern about the impacts of climate change on the economy and the environment and the urgent need for action have finally taken over.

Consider: As new head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde declared that the planet will be "toasted, roasted, and grilled" in 50 years if we don't act to curb climate change. Next week's session of the United Nations will feature several sessions on climate change, thanks in part to Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who sailed to New York, rather than take a carbon-spewing plane, to dramatize the issue. And on Friday, Sept. 29, millions of students in 150 countries worldwide, with the full support of parents and teachers, will walk out of their classrooms to demand action on climate change - and have invited grown-ups to join them by walking off their jobs.

Yes, it's about time. Everybody gets it. Even President Trump. Even Trump has launched an all-out war on climate change. The problem is, he's got it backwards. He's launched an all-out war to speed up climate change, not slow it down. He's waging a deliberate, destructive and diabolical war to make climate change worse by seeking out and wiping out every action taken to mitigate the effects of climate change over the past 20 years.

It started, of course, in June 2017, when Trump announced he would pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord. We now stand alone as the only country on the planet that refuses to join the global campaign to fight climate change, even though, according to Vox, we are "biggest, baddest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet."

On the home front, Trump quickly targeted new regulations on climate change adopted under former President Obama. Last June, the Environmental Protection Agency rolled back tough restrictions on new and existing coal-fired power plants, a major source of carbon emissions. In August 2018, the administration deep-sixed Obama's plan to raise fuel-efficiency standards for new cars to 54 mpg by 2025 - a move agreed to by all auto manufacturers. Trump would freeze Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards at the existing rule of 37 mpg.

But this was only a warm-up to Trump's efforts to get California out of the clean air business altogether. The administration has not only declared "illegal" a landmark agreement between California and Ford, VW, Honda and BMW to produce cleaner, more efficient cars, the White House is pressuring other auto manufacturers not to join the pact, while the Justice Department has threatened to charge the four companies who have already signed on with violating federal antitrust laws.

Meanwhile, Trump has threatened to cancel a special exception granted to California in the 1970s, when former President Reagan was governor, to adopt tougher air quality standards than the federal government - standards embraced by 13 other states. So much for Republican Party rhetoric about protecting states' rights.

And now, showing he will stop at nothing, Trump has not only declared war on the mighty California, he's also declared war on the poor, lowly, defenseless light bulb. He's trashed rules by Presidents Bush and Obama requiring more energy-efficient light bulbs and insisted, instead, on returning to the old, energy-wasteful incandescent light bulb. Why? Because, he said - I kid you not! - the new light bulbs make him look "orange." As if his hair and skin color have nothing to do with it.

In the latest CBS poll, an astounding 91 percent of Americans believe climate change is already happening. But not Trump. He won't believe climate change until Mar-a-Lago is underwater. Which, the way we're going, won't be that long.

Press is host of "The Bill Press Pod." He is author of "From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire."

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