November 17, 2017 Read More →

Op-Ed: How Is Trump Failing to Put America First? Let Us Count the Ways

San Diego Union Tribune:

Now that President Donald Trump has enfeebled the Environmental Protection Agency, reversed climate regulations opposed by fossil fuel interests and announced U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, it is right to examine whether his agenda on climate change really puts “America first,” which he so often proclaims is his overriding goal. In four critical areas, it does not.

Our public health: The Trump agenda apparently disregards that the burning of fossil fuels spews volumes of gases and particulates into the air that are toxic to human health. Numerous studies show that the most severe effects include acute and chronic bronchitis, asthma attacks, lead and heavy metals poisoning, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks and premature death, with those most vulnerable to these ills being the elderly and our children.

Moreover, pollution from the burning of fossil fuels costs billions of dollars in health care costs that are “hidden” in that they are not reflected in the market price for these fuels. These “hidden” costs include lost work days, increased emergency room visits and hospitalizations, increased insurance premiums and the overall growth in our national health care costs. In a 2009 report requested by Congress, the National Academy of Sciences estimated that in 2005 alone these costs were more than $120 billion.

Our economy: Although President Trump proclaims he will bring back jobs by cutting environmental regulations, the evidence shows that new clean-energy technologies and the industries formed around them create far more jobs than are lost in the transition from burning fossil fuels.

According to a 2015 report by the Environmental Defense Fund, based upon Department of Energy data, clean energy jobs already outnumbered those in fossil fuel by more than 2.5 to 1 and were growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy. In a 2017 report, the Department of Energy predicts that energy-efficient employment will grow at the rate of 9 percent in the next 12 months, faster than any other energy sector.

Our national security: Trump’s agenda also ignores a stark warning from the Department of Defense contained in a 2015 report requested by Congress, “National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate.”

The report goes straight to the heart of the matter: “DoD recognizes the reality of climate change and the significant risk it poses to U.S. interests globally. The National Security Strategy, issued in February 2015, is clear that climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water. These impacts are already occurring, and the scope, scale, and intensity of these impacts are projected to increase over time.”

Our global leadership: President Trump has announced that the U.S., the world’s largest polluter after China, will withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate accord, an international agreement, signed by the United States with 196 other countries, which commits the world community to a concerted effort in combating climate change. Our withdrawal would leave the U.S. isolated as one of a tiny handful of nations in the world that is not a member the pact.

China, however, has signed the agreement and sees climate action as a way to fill the leadership vacuum left by the U.S., announcing plans to invest more than $360 billion in renewable energy by the end of this decade. Moreover, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, China is accelerating its foreign investments in renewable technologies and related equipment, a growing international market in which China may soon become the dominant player.

Our announced withdrawal from the Paris agreement amounts to abdication of leadership in the global effort to combat climate change, at our cost and to China’s benefit.

Let it therefore be said that President Trump’s agenda on climate change not only fails to put “America first” by ignoring the hard facts, it also puts in jeopardy our critical interests as a nation both at home and in the global arena.

How Trump is failing to put America first

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