Environmental Justice in the U.S.
First year of Donald Trump
By Götz Kaufmann, 2018-01-26

2017 was dominated by debates about effects of politics by U.S. President Donald Trump concerning climate change and environmental policy. The science community was alert to policy shifts and actions regarding the environmental institutions in the US and the World.

On February 17, 2017, Trump announced Scott Pruitt became the next Administrator for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA). His nomination was one of the first actions by the new White House and caused a wave of protests from NGOs and the science community. Looking at the past career of Pruitt as Attorney General of Oklahoma where he sued the USEPA on various occasions, both protest and concerns were reasonable as every step and action of Pruitt was accommodated by high suspicion due to his announcement to transform the EPA. He is known as a supporter of traditional industry sectors that aim to reduce EPA regulations as advocated environmental policies through the Obama administration. We also reviewed the first month of Scott Pruitt in office. Some of his actions can be seen as an evidence for the orientation in favor of Trumpism, like the blocking of funding for external scientists or a shift to an industry friendly policy for coal mining and power generation.

On June 1,2017 Trump declared the withdrawal of the Paris Climate Accord previously signed by 195 countries and joined Syria and Nicaragua as two other non-participating nations. This decision was evidence of impacts by Trumpism to reach the science community. We discussed the implications of that decision and also uncovered the underlying truth behind this move, which also explains to an extend that Trump won the presidential election. The obvious fact is that globalization driven by the established elites produced more losers than winners in the last decades and therefore lacks growing legitimation problem in Western civil societies. Trump realized this fact and addressed the issue as major weak point of Democratic and Republican establishment alike. Even though neoliberalism could not provide proper answers to deal with growing injustice, his recipe was to offer an ancient mix of the same (cut of taxes and regulations) and protectionism. In the face of the withdrawal of the Paris Climate Accord we started an interview series with scientist from around the world,starting with Dr Jonathan Pickering from Canberra University.

On November 3, 2017, the long-awaited Climate Science Special Report (CSSR) was finally released. The report stated that there is a clear link between human activities and the observed warming since the mid-20th century. Nevertheless, the Trump administration avoided any straight comment on the publication which contradicts earlier statements of Donald Trump referring to climate change as a 'hoax' and 'fabricated'.

The first year of the Trump administration has ended and there is definitely an impact of Trumpism on environmental policy and environmental justice respectively. Trump began his presidency with the promise to turn things upside down and he is following his agenda with consistency. Short term impacts to environmental policy is not yet totally evident but we expect increasing poverty in the U.S, more vulnerability of the poor in consequence, and less assistance to mitigate natural disasters as in Puerto Rico from the national government on the long run. The example of U.S. territory Puerto Rico that faced a devastating hurricane three months ago casts a glance of what to come:

Keeping a focus on Trump in this year 2018 will continue to be one of our focal points.

Image: © gflam