Earth Day Actions Take on Trump’s War on Science
As President Trump rolls back environmental regulations, Scientists, Doctors and Environmentalists inaugurate first ever March for Science in huge global event. Janet Redman of Oil Change USA explains the damage the Trump administration is doing.
KIM BROWN: Welcome to The Real News Network in Baltimore. I’m Kim Brown.
Earth Day is this Saturday and marks the beginning of a big week of action on climate change. On April 22nd, scientists and their supporters are taking to the streets in over 500 locations across the U.S. and around the world, in the first ever March for Science, and next Saturday, April 29th, another huge event, the People’s Climate March.
The Real News Network’s Climate Change Bureau will be out in force for both flagship events in Washington, D.C., and in other locations internationally, so look out for that coverage right here on therealnews.com.
Under the current administration and Republican-controlled Congress, there has been a veritable witch-hunt against science and apparent justification for rollbacks on government regulations to protect the environment and public health that are science-based.
Here’s a clip of the congressman from Texas, Lamar Smith. He’s chairman of the Congressional Science, Space and Technology Committee, as he headed up a hearing titled Climate Science, Assumptions, Policy Implications and the Scientific Method in which renowned climate scientist and friend to the Real News, Michael Mann faced off against three prominent climate deniers, two of whom have been shown to have links to the fossil fuel industry. Let’s take a look.
LAMAR SMITH: Much of climate science today appears to be based more on exaggerations, personal agendas and questionable predictions than on the scientific method. Those who engage in such actions do a disservice to the American people and to their own profession. Only when scientists follow the scientific method can policy-makers be confident that they are making the right decisions. Until then, the debate should continue.
KIM BROWN: With us to discuss why scientists, environmentalists, public health professionals and doctors, among many others, are up in arms we’re joined by Janet Redman. She works with Oil Change USA. She’s also the policy director at Oil Change International.
Previously, Janet was the director of the Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies, and co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network where she provided analysis of the International Financial Institution’s energy investment and carbon finance activities.
Her studies on the World Bank’s climate activities include World Bank: Climate Profiteer, and Dirty is the New Clean: A Critique of the World Bank’s Strategic Framework for Development and Climate Change.
She is also a founding participant in the Global Climate Justice Now Network. She joins us today from Washington, D.C.
Janet, thank you so much for being here.
JANET REDMAN: Thank you for having me on.
KIM BROWN: So, let’s discuss some of the latest assaults on the environment and public health perpetuated by President Trump.
Talk to us about the president signing an Executive Order that included backing away from the Clean Power Plan regulations.
JANET REDMAN: Right. That was now a couple of weeks ago, where we saw President Trump fulfilling one of his promises on the campaign trail, actually to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, one of Obama’s flagship pieces of his climate action plan which was meant to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, particularly coal-fired power plants, and ramp up renewable energy in states.
This Executive Order called… it’s called Energy Independence, but I think of it really as a kind of a climate disaster Executive Order. Both backed away from the Clean Power Plan but did a number of other things, as well.
It also attacked Executive Orders from the Obama administration that were put in place to protect communities and build resilience to the climate impacts that are already built into our system at this point and to help emergency workers, for example, deal with extreme weather impacts on communities in that space.
It also took apart some really important pieces that probably many listeners don’t know about. One is something called the Council on Environmental Quality’s Guidance on Greenhouse Gas Emissions in something called the National Environmental Protection Act.
That was actually some guidance’s from this EQ that said every federal activity, every federal project – pipelines, development – need to assess their impacts on climate change, need to look at their greenhouse gas emissions, to really understand what a project’s impact would be on climate change, but also climate change would impact a project.
Do you build a bridge for extreme flooding like we’re seeing nowadays, or do you ignore that fact?
Another piece that it took apart was something called The Social Cost of Carbon, and that was another way for federal agencies to understand the cost/benefit analysis of different activities, and that actually, brought into consideration not just the immediate economic impact of a project, but what would this mean, what would a project mean in terms of the cost of the pollution, the health impacts, the broader climate impacts of any project. So that’s going away, as well.
KIM BROWN: What does this mean, Janet, for the Paris Agreement and what happens if the U.S. ends up pulling out?
JANET REDMAN: It’s a really, tough question. I think many of us are debating what it looks like. I mean, it makes a lot of sense for the U.S. to stay in. Obviously, it’s the binding agreement… a non-binding agreement, but binding in a sense that every country has agreed to do something on climate change in their own national context.
195 countries have signed it. It does lay out the goal of reduced… keeping global warming below 2 degrees from industrial levels and aiming even more ambitiously to keeping temperature rises to 1.5 degrees. That’s important. It’s important that the U.S. is there.
The Clean Power Plan was a piece of our, again, national plan to comply with the Paris Agreement. So, if we pull out, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can’t do the climate… the clean policy, and if we just take apart the Clean Power Plan it doesn’t mean that we can’t stay in the Paris Agreement.
But the real question here is weather or not it’s better for the U.S. to be in the Paris Agreement or out of the Paris Agreement, and I think that’s the discussion that was going to be held at the White House this week with one camp, Steve Bannon and Scott Pruitt, saying let’s get out of the Paris agreement.
It sends a big signal – you know, Trump promised to get us out of the Paris Agreement – and another camp, Tillerson, Rex Tillerson, our Secretary of State, saying I think we should stay in and have a seat at the table, and that’s actually also really concerning, because what he has been saying and what the Trump administration has been kind of hinting is if we stay in the Paris Agreement, maybe we can use our power to leverage more goodies for fossil fuel technologies.
Calling them clean fossil fuel technologies like carbon capture and storage as part of a capturing carbon dioxide outside of a coal-fired power plant. Maybe we can use our position at the table in the Paris Agreement to actually manipulate more giveaways for the fossil fuel industry. And I’m also very worried about that.
KIM BROWN: In his Executive Order, Donald Trump also reversed policy-guiding agencies to consider the cost of climate change in his decisions.
What could this result in? What would be the outcome of this portion of this particular Executive Order?
JANET REDMAN: I think we’ll be seeing… one place we’ll probably see this right away is in an infrastructure package, for example. We know that’s been a part of Trump’s promises – we’re going to expand the fossil fuel industry on public lands and public waters, more drilling, more mining, more offshore drilling, more fracking on our public lands. And use revenue from that, supposed revenue from that increased fossil fuel expansion to fund infrastructure.
So, on both sides that puzzle that will have real impact. Basically what are we… what would the Trump administration open up for drilling, open up for fracking and mining, if we’re not looking at the environmental and climate impact of those activities, then we’re missing a big piece of the puzzle of reality and, at the same time, if Trump is putting in place, or the Congress is putting in place infrastructure that’s expanding fossil fuel gas pipelines, oil pipelines, export terminals for fossil fuels and not taking into consideration the climate impacts, we’ll see a real digging in in the fossil fuel industry that will be locked in for decades, and it’s really that fossil fuel infrastructure lock-in that’s a big concern.
We may see the Trump administration leave after four years -– obviously after eight years – but once we’ve locked in some of that fossil fuel infrastructure, it’s there for decades.
KIM BROWN: Indeed. Well, stick around, everybody. That was Part 1 of our conversation with Janet Redman. We have Part 2 coming up right after this here on The Real News Network.
KIM BROWN: Welcome back to The Real News for Part 2 of our conversation with Janet Redman from Oil Change USA.
We’re talking about the two big actions planned consecutive Saturdays in Washington, D.C., and cities across the globe. This Saturday is the March for Science. Next Saturday is the People’s Climate March.
And, Janet, I wanted to ask, because Donald Trump says that he also wants to end spending on building climate resilience communities. So, what could the fallout be from this?
JANET REDMAN: I mean, it’s huge. I grew up on the east coast. I’m from New Jersey, so I think of Hurricane Sandy and the number of families who were left in deplorable conditions who were digging out of rotten moldy basements months after Hurricane Sandy. What that means is people will be less prepared for disasters that we know are coming, as the atmosphere gets warmer.
He’s talking about cutting money to prepare emergency responders to deal with these kinds of impacts. I mean, that’s… that’s amazing… very cynical to leave communities high and dry. It also means how do communities rebound from these kinds of impacts, and not just get back to where they were before an extreme weather disaster, for example, but do they really pitch forward and rebuild in a way that makes them more resilient.
Whether that means having better decentralized energy systems, having better transportation systems. If that money is stripped, that’s going to impact families at the very local level, at the household level, so to me that’s a real ideological pitch that says it’s more than climate denial, it’s more than looking at the interests of the fossil fuel industry.
It’s actually, saying, “I’m going to leave a bunch of communities behind, and I don’t really care.” I think that’s incredibly harmful and very cynical.
KIM BROWN: Congressman Lamar Smith, who we saw earlier in the clip, had his honest and open new EPA Science Treatment Act to restrict the use of research in EPA regulatory processes. It passed the House vote 228 to 194 on the same day.
What does it mean to, quote, “restrict the use of research in EPA regulatory processes”?
JANET REDMAN: This is… I think we’re seeing a really concerning shift in the way politicians talk about science. This is an incredibly explicit example of politics mucking in a place where politics doesn’t belong. We should have the data about what’s happening in the world around us.
What we do with that data is obviously part of our politics, how we use that data to pass policy is obviously part of our legislative cycle, part of what the administration does through regulation.
But the idea of saying we’re not going to even let certain science come to light because we don’t like the implications of that based on our ideologies, that’s really putting us at a disadvantage both economically, but really in thinking about how we plan for the future and for the impacts that we know are coming.
There’s little disagreement at this point that, with a warming world, we are going to see increasing extreme weather events, we’re going to see impacts on food prices, on energy prices. We need to at least have the data so we can make smart decisions. We may disagree about what we should do with that data, we should at least we able to see the data.
KIM BROWN: Talk a bit about the March for Science event happening this Saturday. Why has your organization, The Price of Oil, supported this event?
JANET REDMAN: The March for Science, I think, is an important next step, almost, from the Women’s March. It’s basically a community of folks who have not necessarily seen themselves as activists.
I think, you know, as someone who was trained in science, we think of ourselves as objective, logical, looking at clear data, you know, exploring important questions and coming up with answers, but keep… you know, continue to ask questions.
Again, not usually activists, self-identified as activists, but I think what’s important about this is there are people around the country who are marching, as we said, in 500 different locations around the country saying science matters.
We need to listen to science, we need to listen to scientists, and it’s time for people who practise science to come forward and make their voices heard.
I think it’s an incredibly interesting and important moment that this community is coming together with the climate community and we actually have this incredible week of bookends of the Science March and the People’s Climate March, and in the middle hundreds of events happening around the country around teach-ins, around candidate trainings, around youth events, around indigenous people speaking out about the impacts of climate change.
I think this kick-off event of a week of really interesting conversation and debate and action is an important manifestation of a new group of people saying we need to really make our voices heard.
KIM BROWN: Janet, how important is it that people support both the March for Science and Saturday, April 29th’s event, the People’s Climate March?
JANET REDMAN: What’s wonderful is you can support both. The nice thing about the Science March it’s happening… it’s all over the place. It’s really a set of distributed Marches, so you can look for one nearby you. There’s probably one in a bus or a train or driving distance.
And then there is this March in D.C. on the 29th where people from around the country are coming together to show our numbers en masse and actually make the point that there are people who are still interested in having climate and climate justice and a just transition to jobs in the clean energy sector, in the sustainability sector, be right in front of the U.S. agenda.
And so, both of those events are really important, and there are ways to support them both, both physically in person, online through social media, and certainly through online actions, phone calls and ways to weigh in with your decision-makers.
KIM BROWN: Janet Redman. She’s with Oil Change USA. She’s also the policy director at Oil Change International.
We’ve been talking about the March on Science – or, for Science, rather – that’s happening on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22nd in Washington, D.C., and in over 500 locations across the U.S., and across the globe. Janet, we appreciate you joining us today. Thank you.
JANET REDMAN: Thanks for having me on.
KIM BROWN: And thank you for watching and supporting The Real News Network.