When Americans learned last month that President Trump’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act would result in 24 million people losing their health insurance, the overwhelming unpopularity of the measure helped to prevent it from even being brought to a vote in the House. But following Trumpcare’s collapse, the president moved quickly to unleash yet another attack on our health, this time with a reckless executive order that dismantles air pollution safeguards under President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and leaves us exposed to the consequences of climate change.
Trump’s executive order, coupled with his shocking attacks on the EPA’s enforcement budget, means that all Americans, especially the most vulnerable among us, could suffer. But President Trump and the fossil fuel-obsessed Cabinet officials tasked with carrying out his dangerous and misguided order are fighting a losing battle—against the will of the American people.
Americans overwhelmingly favor the environmental safeguards and air pollution protections the Obama administration built on the shoulders of 40+ years of bipartisan environmental laws. In a recent Quinnipiac poll, two-thirds of voters believe Trump should not dismantle climate protections. And it’s easy to see why: his failure to implement the Clean Power Plan could cause up to 3,600 more premature deaths, 90,000 more asthma attacks and 300,000 more missed days of work and school each year.
For the 25 million Americans living with asthma, unchecked climate change means hotter days and more dangerous ozone concentrations that will increase the risk of an attack. A warmer climate also means more frequent and more powerful storms that destroy homes and businesses, upending lives and livelihoods in the process. Those already struggling to make ends meet—the 46 percent of Americans who cannot afford a $400 emergency—will continue to be hit hardest by ever-intensifying natural disasters.
Trump’s assault on public health can be found throughout his proposed budget for the EPA, too. With arbitrary and radical cuts, the Trump administration aims to sabotage the EPA’s ability to keep Americans safe and hold polluters accountable when they bring about harm. Over 40 percent of the EPA’s budget goes to state-run programs that ensure our air and water are safe, but under Trump’s budget, much of this vital work would be scaled back or even shut down. The EPA also helps ensure pesticides or household cleaners are safe, and it oversees cleanup of toxic waste sites that pose health risks to people living or working nearby. Under Trump’s budget, all of this work to protect American families could be axed.
Here’s the bottom line: Tough enforcement of environmental safeguards and sensible efforts to fight climate change will protect the health of hundreds of thousands of Americans each year while creating a safer life for our children and grandchildren. Instead, President Trump is inviting polluters and fossil fuel company executives to write his policies.
Trump denies climate change is a threat, ignoring the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community and the opinion of most Americans. Why? Because sowing doubt leaves room for weaker protections, and weak pollution standards enable powerful polluters to grow their profits—at the expense of the health of the American people. It is a powerful lie with powerful consequences for millions of Americans. To sustain it, Trump knows he needs to convince people to question or dismiss the danger of climate change, if not its very existence.
But Americans are already experiencing the costly and dangerous impacts of climate change. We understand the urgent need for stronger pollution protections to save future generations from the worst impacts of a warming planet. Americans know that by dismantling the Clean Power Plan and safeguards like it, Donald Trump is hijacking the health of our families to prop up his powerful friends in the fossil fuel industry.
President Trump’s assault on the environment, embodied by his executive order on climate change and starvation budget for the EPA, is Trumpcare’s ugly cousin. It is an outright attack on our health, and it must be defeated. We will help bring it down in court, in the court of public opinion, in the halls of Congress and in the White House.
Kevin Curtis is executive director of the NRDC Action Fund.