Trump’s Bad Bet #2 – Rescinding WH Climate Guidance

Everyone loses without climate guidance.
The Missouri River encroaches on homes in Sioux City, Iowa, during a 2011 floodStocktrek Images/Media Bakery

Houses flooded. Trees and power lines down. Wildfires. Drought. Climate chaos is disrupting our lives and destroying our homes. Last year, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) took action to do something about the damage. The White House issued guidance to help agencies include climate change in their environmental reviews. The agencies have a legal obligation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to do so. The guidance provided consistency and tools to help. 

On March 28, President Trump rescinded this guidance.

President Trump has run casinos. You’d think he would know a good bet when he sees one. Rescinding Obama’s climate guidance isn’t. Here’s why:

  1. Taxpayers lose. Courts have already said that federal agencies must consider climate in their environmental analysis. Trump’s action doesn’t get rid of this legal obligation. Now each agency will be left on its own to determine how best to do the analysis. Without the guidance, agencies will waste time and taxpayer money.
  2. Companies lose. The guidance provided consistency. Whether dealing with the Bureau of Land Management to lease coal, the Army Corps of Engineers to build a pipeline or the Department of Transportation to build a highway, a company would know what kind of climate analysis was needed. Now they won’t. The lack of guidance will trigger more litigation and delay.
  3. Our lands and waters lose. From our coastal waters to the canyons of Utah, our public lands and waters are priceless assets belonging to each one of us. The guidance provided tools to assess the climate consequences of actions like drilling for oil and gas or mining for coal. It did not prohibit these actions; instead the guidance helped us make smart decisions about our energy choices for today and tomorrow.
  4. Cities like Miami Beach lose. Miami Beach is spending $500 million to keep rising sea levels from destroying the hotels, restaurants and shops that provide its glamor and glitz. The city needs information to spend this money wisely. How is climate change affecting sea level rise? How are government actions and taxpayer dollars affecting climate change? The guidance helped provide answers. Trump’s action leaves cities like Miami Beach in the dark.
  5. Our pocketbooks lose. Smart investment today will save billions tomorrow. Hurricane Sandy caused billions of dollars of damage. New York is working to rebuild in a way that limits future damage. The guidance helped federal agencies respond in similar ways—making smarter decisions and investments in response to our changing climate. Trump’s action denies us the information we need to invest wisely.
  6. Communities lose. Working with local and state governments, the federal government invests billions of dollars in our communities. The guidance was designed to help communities build roads, seawalls, sewer systems and other investment that lasts. We don’t want to build something that will get washed away in a year or two. Trump’s action leaves cities and states in the dark.
  7. Democracy loses. The federal government is spending our hard-earned dollars. Decisions to mine more coal or drill offshore affect the public lands and waters that belong to all of us.  We have a right to a say in those decisions. We have a right to expect decisions informed by the best science available. The guidance helped deliver on these rights. Trump’s action has taken them away.
  8. Nature loses. Protecting nature helps us save ourselves. Fish, wildlife and plants provide jobs, food and clean water that sustain people, communities and economies across the nation.  Information and action is needed now to ensure that we continue to have these natural resources tomorrow. The guidance helped agencies develop adaptation strategies to our changing climate. Trump’s action ignores that our climate is changing.
  9. Our health loses. Today’s scientists point to climate change as “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.” As temperatures spike, so does the incidence of illness, emergency room visits, and death. Climate change makes us sick, hurting the most vulnerable like the young and the old the most.
  10. Our children lose. Numerous tools now exist to estimate greenhouse gas emissions. Numerous solutions exist to reduce emissions and respond to climate change. We stumble blindly into the future if we fail to use them. The guidance helped provide them. Trump’s action takes them away.

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