Trump Vulnerable on Environment
He’s done more damage than any president in modern history. Will Democrats make this an issue?
A strategic challenge for the eventual Democratic nominee for president will be narrowing down the issues to prioritize during the fall campaign. While a candidate for president will speak about many matters, realistically Trump’s challenger will have put a major focus on just a few key concerns.
I believe that the Democratic candidate for president should make the tremendous damage that Donald Trump‘s administration is doing to our outdoors one of their three or four top issues. Trump in just three years has done more harm to our environment than any other president in modern history.
Even though past Democratic presidential candidates have had a strong environmental platform, they have not given significant prominence to the issue. I hope this year that Trump’s eventual Democratic opponent will take a different tack. Fortunately, it seems that might be happening. Many candidates in the Democratic primary have stressed the climate crisis. A poll of Iowa caucus goers found that climate was their second-most important issue — trailing only health care.
The Democratic candidate should include the climate crisis as a part of a broader critique of the Trump administration’s wholesale assault on the safeguards that protect our air, water and land. Trump is weakening protections that not only go back to the first Earth Day 50 years ago, but even undermining a wildlife protection law that is more than a century old.
Many of these rollbacks weaken air pollution laws, and we’re experiencing the impact. After decades of improvement in air quality, the Trump years have seen a reversal of that progress. There were 15% more polluted air days each year during Trump’s tenure than in the previous four years, according to EPA data.
Trump is removing federal protections from more than half the nation’s wetlands and hundreds of thousands of small waterways. According to an environmental law expert, “This will be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen.”
Virtually every major environmental appointment by Trump has gone to lobbyists for polluting industries or ideological opponents of environmental protection. Scientists at the EPA and other anti-pollution agencies have been sidelined or fired and their place has been taken by advocates for fossil fuel and chemical corporations.
Perhaps Trump’s most aggressive actions are his reversals of measures to combat climate disruption. Even as wildfires, floods and hurricanes linked to global warming have intensified, Trump has called climate science a hoax. He has made America the only country in the world to deny the scientific consensus on climate and to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
Public opinion is on the side of conservation. A recent Gallup poll found that a strong majority of Americans say protection of the environment should be a priority and believe the U.S. government is not doing enough to protect the environment. Three-quarters of the poll respondents support higher emissions and pollution standards for industry. This is the strongest support in more than a decade.
Pro-environmental sentiments have long been especially strong in the states of the Upper Midwest that will be key battlegrounds in the Electoral College. A focus on protecting our outdoors can and should be an integral part of the campaign to defeat Trump.
This column was originally published by the Cap Times in Madison.
Spencer Black represented the 77th Assembly District for 26 years and was chair of the Natural Resources Committee.