Politics of Poverty

Executive disorder: Trump’s assault on the climate vulnerable

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Rice farmer Pierre-Louis Elusmé, 64, at his home in Brocozele village in Haiti. “Twenty-five years ago you could grow and sell enough to take care of your family, and buy animals like cows and goats when we had extra money. Now we get no benefit [from growing rice], we don’t get enough to feed the family. Since there is a lack of water here, it makes it really hard. This season we’re lucky, it’s been raining, so we might get something. (Photo: Brett Eloff / Oxfam America)

The administration continues to push forward a climate denialist agenda at the expense of vulnerable communities at home and abroad.

This post was co-authored by Tom Damassa, Senior Policy Advisor for Climate Change at Oxfam America.

Today marks a big win for polluting elites and climate deniers at the expense of the American people and the billions more around the world already feeling the impacts of a changing climate. The Trump administration signed an Executive Order to set in motion the unraveling of several policies and programs aimed at helping the United States reduce its climate pollution, protect public health, better manage climate change impacts, and play a leadership role in the clean energy economy. In short, this Executive Order is a disgrace in its complete disregard for people and the planet.

While the Trump administration’s dangerous climate denialism agenda showed itself in the President’s “skinny” budget by zeroing out all climate-related finance, this is climate denial transformed into a governing ideology. Although some of the Executive Order’s directives will likely mire the government in years of legal and bureaucratic battles, many measures will be put in place immediately, to the detriment of vulnerable communities everywhere.

Climate Resilience Shelved

For example, Trump’s Executive Order reverses course on Obama-era directives that support climate resilience in government decision-making in the US and internationally. These policies required, among other things, federal agencies to submit assessments of proposed and completed changes to their land- and water-related policies, programs, and regulations to promote the dual goals of climate resilience and carbon sequestration; and encouraged investments that increase the Nation’s resilience to climate change.

By revoking these directives, Trump is sending a signal that climate change has no impact on communities in the US, national security interests, or economic development. A move like this will almost certainly cost American taxpayers more in the long run; it means planners can choose to ignore information that helps make better investment decisions.

There’s not logic to this. In fact, this Executive Order calls into question how the Department of Defense will respond as the department has, on its own, adopted clear directives to adapt to climate impacts and make climate-smart investments in support of its mission. Secretary Mattis recently stated in his confirmation hearing testimony that “climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.” Will Secretary Mattis now be directed to ignore his own common sense?

Inequality in Action

Ultimately, this Executive Order means that people here at home and many more abroad are likely to be harmed in the long run, while a small handful of polluter elites and their inside-the-beltway allies benefit in the short-term from undoing climate-smart policies. Although the administration is quick to use rhetoric about promoting energy independence and bringing back coal jobs, the majority of evidence suggests that the actions in the Executive Order will do very little to support these goals. What’s more, the majority of Americans want the US to address climate pollution. Americans know better.  Climate change is real, it’s a threat, and we need to act.

Oxfam Will Continue to Fight for Climate Justice

This Executive Order aims to dismantle US actions to address climate change. It’s petty and it’s irresponsible, and there’s too much at stake now to go backwards. Oxfam is investing in climate-resilient development strategies all over the world and will continue to deepen and strengthen this work regardless of what the US President does. We’d love for you to join us by supporting our efforts to help families and communities around the world adapt to our changing climate, raising your voice to your member of Congress, or joining us at the People’s Climate March on April 29th along with hundreds of allied organizations to take a stand for climate action and against injustice.

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