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January 18, 2017

STUDENT VOICE: Trump’s cabinet is disaster for climate change fight

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By Laura Rockefeller

I’ve been concerned about environmental issues since I was little. My parents always stressed the importance of recycling, conserving electricity and water and walking on foot whenever possible. We drive a fuel efficient car and compost our organic food waste. We make an effort to pull on sweaters during this time of year instead of cranking up the heat. When I was younger, I was more optimistic, figuring that our sustainable attitude was the norm. Adults, I assumed, were as concerned about our planet as I was. They would sort things out. Now, I find myself disappointed.

Though Trump has said he wants “to have clean air and water,” he also said he will disengage the United States — the second largest global carbon emitter — from the ground-breaking Paris Agreement. This agreement provides a plan for 195 countries to limit carbon emissions, and while it is a significant step towards addressing climate change, it is actually fairly modest. The agreement is not preventative because we have already seen some of the results of climate change. Rather, the Paris Agreement seeks to avoid the worst-case global scenario. As an international superpower, the U.S. abandoning the agreement would signal to other countries that cutting carbon and saving the planet is neither a priority, nor a possibility.

Trump picked Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt attempted to sue the EPA multiple times as Oklahoma attorney general. He was a leader in the lawsuit against Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which limits carbon emissions from power plants. Scientists warn that parts of Miami may be underwater by 2050, meanwhile, this man may be our best defense against toxic waters, smoggy cities and rising oceans.

Rex Tillerson, the choice for Secretary of State, was the CEO of the world’s largest oil company, ExxonMobil. Tillerson has said “we’ll adapt” to the challenges of climate change, a policy that will prove paltry at global climate talks. There’s also Rick Perry for head of the Energy Department, an agency he vowed to eliminate during his 2012 presidential campaign. The former Texas governor also sat on the boards of two companies working to build the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In a statement, EarthJustice Vice President of Litigation for Climate & Energy Abigail Dillen announced that these nominations would “give the wealthiest oil executives in the country unprecedented power over our daily lives — from the air we breathe to the water we drink … This may be the most stunning expression of how money in politics work. The richest corporations win and everybody else loses.”

As a nation, we are finally tuning-in to climate change. We’re recognizing the threats — economic, agricultural, infrastructural and more — that climate change presents for the globe. We’re recognizing that it means famine, drought and disease. We’re recognizing that it means crises for national security, public health and refugees worldwide. But just acknowledging the challenges is insufficient. Continuing to neglect, ignore and delay action on climate change in the coming four years isn’t an option. My generation’s home is at stake.

Laura is a junior at Roland Park Country School in Baltimore, Maryland. 

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