by Susan Sharon
Maine Public Radio news story
How will policies to combat climate change fare under Donald Trump’s administration? It’s one of many questions being raised after the president-elect’s stated positions on the campaign trail.
Trump has repeatedly expressed skepticism about the science of climate change, even famously suggesting it was a Chinese hoax. At a climate change solutions conference in Biddeford on Friday, U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine says he’s optimistic that Washington won’t be the final arbiter. Local environmental groups are planning for that scenario, too.
Trump has said a lot of things on the campaign trail — he’d like to cut regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency “70-80 percent,” he’d like to see more oil drilling, approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, an end to the Clean Power Plan that slashes carbon emissions and a withdrawal of U.S. commitments to the historic, but voluntary, Paris climate accord that asks participating countries to do the same.
“It’s a definite concern. I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” King told reporters after a keynote address on climate change at the University of New England Friday morning.
King said he’s hopeful that Trump will change his mind about some things even though he has just appointed a climate denier to his EPA transition team.
“He doesn’t have rigid, ideological positions on every issue, and I think we’re going to see some shifting, as we already have in some areas. But, we’re all influenced heavily by the people around us, and if he has people around him who are climate deniers, then it’s going to be that much harder. It would really be a shame, for example, to pull out of the Paris accord,” he says.
If the U.S. backs out, King says the entire agreement could unravel. But Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, says before Trump pulls the plug on anything, he might want to consider a couple of key points.
“The people of the United States actually think climate change is a concern and they think we should be doing something about it. The other thing he’s going to have to confront is that markets are changing. Clean energy technologies are here. They’re happening. They’re getting better,” he says.
In fact, the cost of wind and solar have dropped more than 70 percent since 2008, and coal is now more expensive than natural gas. King says that’s why he’s hopeful that Trump and a Republican-led Congress may be overshadowed by the clean energy revolution and market pressure.
Either way, Glen Brand of the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club says environmental activists will be ready.
“We responded during the George W. Bush era successfully, to limit or stop his anti-environmental agenda, and we’re going to do that again with Trump. I’m confident of that,” he says.
Brand says environmentalists will play defense on the national level, but they’ll push to make progress in their own states. What’s encouraging, Brand says, is that the Sierra Club and other environmental groups have been energized by the recent election.
“I can tell you that volunteers have been coming to the Sierra Club, responding, they want to get involved. People sense that this is the time to get engaged. It’s meaningful on a personal level and it’s important to be with people who share your values to help move the ball forward,” he says.
Still, Voorhees says the election has been a wake-up call that people are feeling left behind by an economy in transition. And he says it will be important to make sure they have a role in the clean energy jobs of the future.