While the nation focuses its attention on fighting the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump Administration has been working to rollback environmental policies. The result of its efforts will be to accelerate climate change and the sea level rise flooding that threatens millions of lives and billions, if not trillions, of dollar worth of real estate located along the vulnerable U.S. coastline.
In late March, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would would not fine companies that break the law by failing to monitor their emissions and discharges if they can prove the lack of monitoring was due to the coronavirus epidemic. In response, a coalition of environmental groups signed a petition to the EPA that warned: “EPA’s non-enforcement policy threatens environmental and health protections by inviting regulated entities to pollute and to hide crucial information from the public. It conveys a broad license to quit monitoring and reporting indefinitely, based only on the honor system.”
On another front, the Trump administration boasted that it performed “the largest deregulatory initiative of this administration” when it announced on March 31 that it was replacing Obama-era fuel standards with lower annual increases. According to a CNN report, the rule, which was created by the EPA and Department of Transportation, calls for fuel economy and emissions standards to increase by 1.5% each year instead of the 5% annual increase in the Obama rule.
President Obama criticized the change on Twitter writing: “We’ve seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied the warnings of a pandemic. We can’t afford any more consequences of climate denial.”
A New York Times analysis estimated that the new rule would lead to nearly a billion more tons of carbon dioxide — a major greenhouse gas that causes global warming — being released into the atmosphere.
Using one global emergency to accelerate another is a dangerous game to play for us all. With the lack of responsible federal leadership, we are as unprepared for the coming crises sure to be posed by global warming and sea level rise as we have been for the coronavirus pandemic. If we don’t get a handle on greenhouse gas emissions, the results will be devastating.