Donald Trump vs. the Planet

Donald Trump vs. the Planet
Photo: Gage Skidmore

Photo: Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump is heading into Super Tuesday as the likely victor in several Republican primaries (and the current odds-on favorite to win the GOP nomination), so already he seems to be casting an eye toward the general election, moderating some of his rhetoric (such as acknowledging the “good work” done by Planned Parenthood) and claiming he will attract more voters into the Republican Party. But try as he might to appeal to a broader audience, Trump is out of step with Americans on some important issues, including America’s leadership on climate change and protecting our clean air and water.

Trump often says climate change is a “hoax,” and he’s called the Environmental Protection Agency a “disaster,” promising deep cuts to the agency’s budget. His platform would turn Big Polluters into winners–putting people who want to breathe clean air and drink clean water on the losing end of the deal.

That’s not what most Americans are looking for in a leader. Two-thirds of voters favor EPA limits on carbon pollution from power plants, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. A full 57 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Independents, and 79 percent of Democrats support state-level limits on climate change pollution, according to a Washington Post/ABC News survey.

Yet here’s what Trump has said about the climate threat:

  • “I am not a believer in climate change.”
  • “Weather changes, and you have storms, and you have rain and you have beautiful days. But I do not believe that we should imperil the companies within our country.”
  • President Obama’s speech at the Paris climate talks in December was “one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever heard in politics, in the history of politics as I know it, which is pretty good.”

While Trump uses words like “canard,” “con job,” and “nonexistent” to describe the scientific reality of climate change, Americans are feeling the brunt of super-charged weather events. Last summer, hundreds of homes were burned and three firefighters lost their lives in Washington State’s worst fire season on record. In the Midwest, freak winter flooding along the Mississippi River this year did more than $1 billion in damages and killed more than 25 people.

People cleaning up from record-breaking disasters might be put off by Trump’s disregard and his callous jokes, like when he tweeted during a cold spell, “Man, we could use a big fat dose of global warming.”

Meanwhile, the 26 million Americans who suffer from asthma or the Americans who want to drink water free of pollution might take issue with Trump’s view of the EPA:

  • “Environmental Protection, what they do is a disgrace….We’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little but you can’t destroy businesses.”
  • In the last GOP debate, Trump vowed to cut the budget by dismantling the EPA: “We’re going to get rid of so many different things… Environmental protection–we waste all of this money.”
  • In December, Trump complained that EPA water conservation measures were a “disaster” because “I can’t wash my hair properly.”

Trump’s disdain for accepted climate science and his attacks on the EPA play well with the conservative base, and his positions are largely shared by primary opponents like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, but he won’t find as receptive an audience during the general election. Most American voters want leaders to help ensure the air and water we rely on is safe. According a survey by the American Lung Association, far more Americans trust the EPA than Congress to get that job done.

If Trump has his way, there would be no agency standing between polluters and the American people. And there would be no plan to deal with one of the biggest health, environmental and economic challenges of our time, because Trump doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of climate change. That’s not the kind of leader most Americans want.