This week’s must read: Bob’s follow up interview with Sierra
This week’s must watch: Katharine Hayhoe’s latest Global Weirding video
This week in climate change ping pong, President-elect Donald Trump made a number of cabinet picks and sent confusing signals on where he stands on the issue. In an interview on Fox News Sunday, he insisted he is “still open-minded” on climate change while also asserting the science isn’t settled. “Nobody really knows,” Trump said. “Look, I’m somebody that gets it, and nobody really knows. It’s not something that’s so hard and fast. I do know this: Other countries are eating our lunch.” Trump went on to say he’s “studying” the Paris climate agreement which went into effect earlier this year. “I do say this. I don’t want that agreement to put us at a competitive disadvantage with other countries…And as you know, there are different times and different time limits on that agreement. I don’t want that to give China, or other countries signing agreements, an advantage over us.”
As the week progressed, he announced three major cabinet picks: ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State; one-time nomination rival and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to take the helm at the U.S. Department of Energy; and Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke as the next Interior Secretary. Trump pivoted to Zinke after issues arose with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who earlier this week was rumored to be his pick.
Zinke, an avid hunter and angler and outdoorsman, supports public lands staying in federal ownership. As for climate change, in recent comments, he indicated he doesn’t believe it’s a hoax but, “it’s not a proven science either.” However, in 2010 when he was in the Montana state house, he signed onto a letter calling climate change a “threat multiplier” that “presents significant national security challenges for the United States.” The letter also referred to clean energy development and climate change solutions as “America’s new space race,” and called on Congressional leaders to enact climate legislation.
Perry, when he ran for president in 2012, suggested eliminating the agency he may now oversee, which has jurisdiction over the nation’s network of 17 national laboratories, the nuclear weapons program, and energy production/conservation. However, the state of Texas grew into a leading state for wind production under his tenure, and he supports an “all of the above” energy policy. Perry promoted carbon capture and storage projects in the Lone Star State, but has called climate change a “contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight.”
In a speech in October, Tillerson said ExxonMobile “share[s] the view that the risks of climate change are serious and warrant thoughtful action. Addressing these risks requires broad-based, practical solutions around the world. Importantly, as a result of the Paris agreement, both developed and developing countries are now working together to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, while recognizing differing national responsibilities, capacities and circumstances.” He went on to stress the importance of encouraging “long-term investments in both proven and new technologies, while supporting effective policies.” Under Tillerson, Exxon “long supported a carbon tax as the best policy” on the table for reducing carbon emissions. “Replacing the hodge-podge of current, largely ineffective regulations with a revenue-neutral carbon tax would ensure a uniform and predictable cost of carbon across the economy. It would allow market forces to drive solutions. It would maximize transparency, reduce administrative complexity, promote global participation and easily adjust to future developments in our understanding of climate science as well as the policy consequences of these actions.”
In other news, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), a longtime advocate for climate action, responded to Trump’s inconsistent climate comments.”Our country must develop reasonable policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and advance the goal of energy independence for our nation,” Collins told the Bangor Daily News. “That is why under the new administration, I will continue to work to advance legislation that would promote clean energy initiatives, improve the energy efficiency of vehicles and buildings, and support the development of deepwater offshore wind power.”
Likewise, in neighboring Vermont, incoming Republican Governor-elect Phil Scott said “we have to deal with reality” and “look for ways to work” with Trump, whom he did not support through the primaries. In response to appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to the helm of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott said he “would prefer that it was an appointment that believes” in climate change. “I believe that climate change is real. I believe that it’s man-made,” he said.
Hey, does the preponderance of bad news discourage you? Us too. We want to highlight and inspire positive action. If you know about an ecoright climate story or hero we are missing, please share with us.