Potential changes in environmental policy strike controversy


Graphic by the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) that shows the horrifying rise in global temperatures over the last three years.

Maggie Cooney, Features Editor

In an article recently posted by The Washington Post, it was reported by NASA and other scientific organizations that the past three years have been the hottest consecutive years in human history. This fact is bringing a wave a panic, especially in the current political climate.

As the end of January quickly approaches, so does the inauguration of the next president of the United States, Donald Trump. As he enters the White House, Trump brings with him new and somewhat controversial ideas and proposed policies.

During his campaign, president-elect Trump was particularly vocal about his plan to overturn President Barack Obama’s current environmental policies.

This plan includes lessening environmental regulations and attempting to undo some of the new legislation put in place during President Obama’s administration. One such policy is the Clean Power Plan, which has cut and regulated carbon emissions from power plants.

Many people are worried about this possible loosening of environmental policy. “I think that if he wants to make a change he needs to make it better,” says junior and former AP Environmental Science student Alicia Warner. She feels that Trump needs to talk to advisers and experts, such as environmental scientists, before he makes any drastic changes.

Warner opposes Trump’s policies and doesn’t think that he cares enough about climate change. “I feel that he is doing this for himself.” She is concerned that his connections with corporations through his businesses may blind his judgment or lead him to ignore the science and facts when dealing with the environment.

In addition, many citizens are concerned with Trump’s choice in leadership for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt. They fear that the Oklahoma Attorney General’s connections with big business, specifically the fossil-fuel industry, will cloud his judgment.

In an interview with The New York Times, Ken Cook, who heads the Environmental Working Group—an organization that advocates for human health and the environment—said that “It’s a safe assumption that Pruitt could be the most hostile EPA administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history.”

Stephanie Crow, AP Environmental Science teacher, says that she is also concerned with Trump’s pick for the EPA. She is, however, hopeful that once Trump enters office, he will receive more information on the science of global warming, and he will take a step back to create a policy that is best for the United States and the environment.

President-elect Trump has also been vocal about his wish to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement serves to bring together U.N. nations to combat climate change. The United States is an essential part of this agreement because we produce a high percentage of carbon dioxide that is leading to climate change.

There is precedent for U.N. nations working together to help the environment. In the 1980s, the U.N. worked to combat the growing hole in the ozone layer. The hole has now been almost entirely eliminated, showing the impact that the world can have when we work together.

Crow believes that the world needs to get together now and that, as a powerful nation, we have to be a part of any agreement for there to be any significant impact. “We have to be those people,” stated Crow. She believes that carbon-dioxide emissions are a huge concern for the environment right now, and the United States needs to impose some carbon emission policy.

Another area of controversy has been Trump’s idea to deregulate hydraulic fracking. This is a process of drilling into the ground to extract natural gasses and has been a concern to some people. Fracking has been linked to water contamination and earthquakes. According to the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College, fracking also has potential links to air pollution, a danger to human health.

The idea of eliminating regulations on something so potentially dangerous is a scary thought for many Americans. “He ignores science and goes with his gut feeling, which is wrong 200 percent of the time,” says Warner.

Many students, whether they agree or disagree with Trump’s plans, are wondering how they can get involved and make an impact on environmental policy. AP Environmental Science student Eadoin Grim suggests, “Students should stand up for what they believe in regardless of what it is.”

In addition, Crow suggests contacting your senator or representative if you have strong concerns on an issue. Our senators for Michigan are Gary Peters (D) and Debbie Stabenow (D), and our representative is Dave Trott (R). Students can email, call, or send a letter to any of those people if they have strong thoughts on environmental policy or other issues.

This past year has seen a flurry of ideas for new environmental policy, which has led to heated debate that isn’t likely to cease in the new year. The important thing is for citizens to be well informed and willing to listen to each other’s opinions. And as students, it is important for us to work toward a future and environment that we want to live in, working together toward a cleaner future.