March 31, 2017
President Donald Trump’s executive actions of earlier this week, which attempt to undermine progress made under President Barack Obama to combat the menace of human-caused climate change, are yet another example of the new administration’s propensity to let blind ideology “trump” clear-eyed science and good sense.
It has been established beyond reasonable scientific doubt that: (1) climate change is occurring globally at a pace and in a pattern not explained by natural influences; (2) the pace and pattern are explained by human emissions from fossil fuel burning and changes in land use; (3) the ongoing changes in climate are already causing serious harm to human health, property, and livelihoods—from increases in heatwaves, wildfires, pest outbreaks, torrential downpours, and the most powerful storms, as well as sea-level rise and shifts in the abundance and distribution of species (those we need, those we love, and those we hate); and (4) future harm in these categories will be far less if the world continues to act collectively to reduce the offending emissions than if it does not.
To ignore these realities, as the Trump administration is apparently intent on doing, not only will slow global progress on preventing a truly catastrophic degree of climate change; it also will unilaterally surrender the leadership position the United States has enjoyed, under President Obama, in the global effort to meet this common challenge. And, by crippling the US government’s efforts to support development and implementation of the most cost-effective remedies—as the Trump budget would do if approved by the Congress—this stance would ultimately sacrifice this country’s global economic competitiveness as well.
John P. Holdren
Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University