Just one year into the Trump administration, numerous high-level government officials have denied, downplayed, and eliminated government mentions of climate change and its effects.
The man running the Environmental Protection Agency—who is charged with protecting the nation’s air, water, and land from pollution—sued it more than a dozen times on behalf of fossil-fuel extractors to prevent it from enforcing its emissions regulations.
But if you’re not sure if President Trump has been good or bad for the environment and specifically climate change, ask someone who’s been paying even closer attention.
A year-long retrospective summary from The Brookings Institute, a public-policy group, said last month the first year of this president’s “confusing messages on climate change” included this: “[Trump] has set loose Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to purge government webpages of climate change information and to roll back efforts on the issue.”
“Career scientists in the agency are demoralized,” it continued, “as he attempts to slash programs and even gag researchers when they attempt to talk about their climate change findings.”
But the piece also suggests a few signs that President Trump isn’t going full-bore against climate researchers—and can occasionally be moderate, as author Timmons Roberts writes.
“The lack of muzzling of the scientists who wrote the National Climate Assessment, a dire review of current and likely future impacts in our country,” is one example, he says.
While “lack of muzzling of … scientists” is not usually a phrase associated with actions by the U.S. government, in context it may be the most positive achievement that can be highlighted.
If seeking more signs of moderation, the article suggests another data point may be a promise by Judith Garber, a career State Department official, “to help other countries ‘adapt to the impacts of climate change.'”
In other words, as in numerous issues both political and social, the current administration’s message is both here and there.
Still, the U.S. is now the only country in the world that has signaled its intent to withdraw from the 2016 Paris agreement on climate change, as this past year has seen both Iran and Nicaragua sign the agreement, leaving the U.S. isolated globally.
The White House has said it will reenter the pact only if there are “terms that are more favorable for our country.”
It cannot, however, formally withdraw for four more years, on a date that coincidentally comes just days after the 2020 U.S. presidential elections.
An unusual “March for Science” held in April underscored broad public support for action against climate change and respect for “science-based” policies (a term later banned for use by the administration in funding requests at the Centers for Disease Control).
Numerous states and U.S. cities, meanwhile, have announced aggressive actions to comply with the terms of the Paris agreement within their own regions.
READ MORE: Trump disinvited from climate summit
A group representing several states and cities, in fact, essentially overshadowed the official U.S. delegation at a November climate summit from which President Trump was disinvited.
The U.S. delegation’s presentations included one on the continuing importance of fossil fuels for human progress and economic growth, a topic that produced significant adverse reactions from a majority of the other nations’ delegations.
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