The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an annual summit dedicated to fostering global cooperation against climate change, among other major international issues, is currently underway—alongside the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump.
On Tuesday in Davos, Trump bragged about fossil fuel production and American economic success. He was applauded for backing a new international goal of planting a trillion trees around the globe. The resident climate change denier in the White House quickly shifted gears, however, by praising the mining of “traditional fuels” including coal and natural gas.
Meanwhile, other speakers warned of dire economic and environmental crises if we are to continue on the current trajectory. Swiss president Simonetta Sommaruga expressed alarm about the effects of climate change as global temperatures rise. “The world is on fire. We see the rainforest burning in the Amazon and the bush fires burning in Australia,” she pointed out.
Greta Thunberg, the now world-famous 17-year-old Swedish climate activist, remarked that “pretty much nothing” has been done about global warming despite all of the conversations regarding the issue, concluding that “without treating it as a real crisis, we cannot solve it.”
What’s required now is serious, immediate action: not only switching to renewable energy, but also replacing the vast quantities of ice that has melted and trees that have burned.
High Environmental Crimes
The Trump administration poses a grave and fundamental threat to the future of our planet. In July, 2019, Friends of the Earth (a nonprofit organization with nearly 1.9 million members and activists) passed a resolution calling for Trump’s impeachment. On December 19, the New York Times published an article outlining no less than 95 environmental rules being rolled back under Trump.
Trump is famously withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, the international accord that establishes a cooperative, global path to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees F) above preindustrial levels. The United States is the sole nation that has pulled out of the agreement. This, despite a statement signed by over 11,000 scientists from more than 150 countries warning of “untold suffering” unless global society undergoes a “major transformation.”
Trump has interfered with federal climate science, dismissed federal scientific advisory panels without cause, and refused to release the legally mandated “Our Changing Planet” report since his term began in 2017.
Although U.S. presidents are legally not allowed to profit from their office, Trump has done just that by “allowing foreign governments, including oil-producing nations such as United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, to curry favor by patronizing his businesses,” according to the Friends of the Earth resolution.
His unethical behavior extends far beyond the White House. As just one of many examples, former EPA Director Scott Pruitt was ousted due to his outrageous abuses of public office—such as living in a luxurious Capitol Hill apartment he got at discount from an oil lobbyist and using public funds to take first-class plane trips.
Trump is also undermining environmental agencies from effectively doing their essential job of monitoring, conducting investigations and inspections and bringing civil and criminal actions against polluters and other violators. Under the Trump EPA, which is currently being led by a former fossil fuel lobbyist, 60 percent fewer inspections than average are occurring. Trump administration officials are failing to prosecute environmental criminals who pollute our air and water and harm public health. Instead, fossil fuel donors and employers are being rewarded.
Trump’s denial of the climate crisis should be added to the articles of impeachment against him.
Of course, Trump’s reckless environmental policies are not what ultimately led to his impeachment by the House of Representatives in December. The trial currently underway has to do with his alleged abuse of power threatening American democracy. US senators have become the jury tasked with deciding whether the president should be removed from office. This is a deeply frustrating moment for environmentalists and concerned citizens, because despite the incredibly long list of offenses by this president, the Republican majority in the Senate are highly unlikely to vote him out of office.
We need Congress to protect the pillars of democracy. If our governmental leaders fail to stand up to the Trump administration's fundamental threats to our democracy, how can we expect them to take on the all-important issue of climate change?