The Environmentalists Versus Trump

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump criticized global warming as a “hoax,” threatened to withdraw from the Paris climate treaty, and promised to bring back coal-mining jobs. Now, as president-elect, he has appointed well-known energy realist and anthropogenic global warming skeptic Myron Ebell to head his EPA transition team. Ebell is also rumored to be under consideration for head of the EPA after Trump takes office.

What Trump will do as president, and where energy and environmental policy fall in his list of priorities, remains to be seen. But if President Trump is anything like candidate Trump, it is likely the EPA will shrink, the U.S. will pull back on its Paris commitments, and President Obama’s coal-crushing regulations will be relaxed. Extravagant subsidies for “alternative” energy—wind, solar, magic—will also likely be curtailed. These are all sensible reforms that President Trump should green-light for immediate implementation.

They are also reforms that cut at the heart of the sustainability movement, which is fixated on leveraging climate catastrophe as a “once-in-a-century chance” to ram through a host of leftist policies.  The radical environmentalist movement is bent on shuttering the fossil fuel industry in favor of windmills and solar panels, a costly boondoggle that would result in skyrocketing prices and erratic energy production.  The movement has also ridden the coattails of the social justice movement and Bernie Sanders-style socialism. That’s because activists see sustainability as a set of ideological values that go beyond protecting the environment. Many depict “sustainability” on a Venn diagram at the intersection of social justice, environmental protection, and economic redistribution.

The sustainability movement has grown into a regnant regime on college campuses, some 475 of which offer degrees in sustainability and related fields. More than 600 university heads have signed the Presidents Climate Commitment, pledging to eliminate or offset 100% of all carbon dioxide emissions and to “integrate” sustainability into all classes as the backbone of the curriculum. A generation of college students has graduated with the understanding that global warming is the most urgent, important issue of their lifetime, responsible at once for economic inequality, the oppression of women, and the rise of ISIS.

Donald Trump’s upset victory strikes a blow to the idea that sustainability has the imprimatur of the American people. His administration will have the opportunity to encourage transparency and scientific scruples within the EPA, long known for cherry-picking data and peer reviewers to produce the scientific conclusions it prefers. President Trump should also shrink the size of bureaucratic agencies like the EPA, which has appropriated to itself ever growing amounts of power at the expense of individual autonomy.  (Think of the Clean Water Act, which the EPA interpreted to cover backyard drainage ditches.)