“Climate Arsonist”: How the Trump Administration Impacted the Environment

Is Biden’s moderate climate plan enough to put out Trump’s fire? Original illustration by Antuan

By Raya El-Hajjar, age 13

“It’ll start getting cooler…you just watch,” President Trump said as he sat in a news briefing in Sacramento, California. It was September 2020, at the height of the California wildfires. A picture of burning trees was displayed on his left. This is one of the most recent examples of the Trump administration’s attitude toward climate change.  

Over the last four years, the Trump administration’s climate agenda continuously revealed itself to be detrimental to the well-being of the environment. Under instruction from the Trump administration, the United States pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), under President Trump’s guidance, scrapped the Clean Power Plan, which ordered the energy sector to cut carbon emissions by 32% before 2030. More recently, the Trump administration opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge up for oil drilling. Trump championed weakening emissions standards nationwide and increasing fracking. Noah Greenwald, director of the endangered species program at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in an interview with The Intercept, “It’s been a terrible waste of four years at a time when we don’t have four years.” Which begs the question: What about the next four years?

The Biden-Harris administration’s website shows an overview of their plan to address climate change. They want to achieve a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050. They also plan to rally the rest of the world around climate issues. There are many promises on Biden’s campaign website, including immediately rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement. It is also important to note that Biden has not accepted the Green New Deal proposed by Senator Edward Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; however many are advocating for him to do so. 

So, what does a “100% clean energy economy” mean? According to the Environmental Defense Fund, a clean energy economy means “producing no more climate pollution than we can remove.” Climate pollution, like CO2 and methane, is difficult to remove from the atmosphere, but scientists say that it is not impossible. With enough concentrated effort, which could be provided by Biden, a clean energy economy could be in America’s near future. 

Biden also promised to help America achieve “net-zero emissions.” Attaining this goal is simple: We remove all man-made gases from the atmosphere. There are already several methods that have been introduced in this field of study, such as using carbon mineralization or direct air capture to remove pollution. 

Biden’s plan goes on to pledge that he will invest more than $2 trillion in a “Clean Energy Revolution.” Among other things, this revolution would create 10 million clean energy jobs. There are valid concerns, however, that clean energy jobs pay less than those in the fossil fuel sectors. These concerns have yet to be addressed by President Biden. 

There are plenty of problems for him to address on day one. Climate change is a significant one. Lindsay Meiman, communications manager at 350.org, in an interview with IndyKids shared 10 executive actions that the environmental organization demands from Biden’s first day in office. Those demands include ending fossil fuel extraction on public land, stopping fracking, and prosecuting fossil fuel polluters. 

As we move further into 2021, the path forward is becoming quite clear. “Our role is to hold the Biden-Harris administration accountable,” Meiman said. “There is a beautiful, powerful, global and connected movement for climate justice that needs every single person. Now is our moment.”

1 thought on ““Climate Arsonist”: How the Trump Administration Impacted the Environment”

  1. Great column. But you might have noted that even Biden-Harris is not going far enough. You mention that he has not accepted Green New Deal but might mention important differences between the plans.

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