Al Gore and Donald Trump—when it comes to environmentalism, it would be hard to find two people more diametrically opposed. Gore helped to bring the dangers of climate change into the public eye with his 2006 lm “An Inconvenient Truth”; Trump claimed in 2012 that the very concept of global warming “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” according to the New York Times.
And yet, on Dec. 5, the two men came together in Trump Tower to, in Gore’s words, “search for areas of common ground”, according to the New York Times. This meeting has been one of the few rays of hope for environmental activists since Trump’s election.
During the Obama administration, the U.S. took various international steps to combat climate change—most notably the Paris Climate Agreement, a United Nations pledge to reduce greenhouse emissions worldwide. However, according to the Washington Post, Trump has vowed to “cancel” United States involvement in it.
“I hope that [the Paris Agreement] will continue without us, and I think it will because of wide support in Europe and China, which have been having trouble with air pollution lately,” said senior and Environmental Club Co- President Corey Simmerer. “Losing it would be a big setback for our efforts against climate change.”
Of Trump’s appointments, the one most relevant to the environment is Scott Pruitt, who he nominated for head of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). As Oklahoma's attorney general, Pruitt boasted of being “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda”, according to the Washington Post. This has caused concern among environmental activists, who fear he would gut the very agency he has been appointed to lead.
“It’s not just about climate change,” AP Environmental Science teacher Jessica Timmons said. “Water quality is a big thing with mining states like Oklahoma, and a rollback of regulations from the EPA could pretty severely impact the quality of our drinking water.”
Similar concerns have hounded Rick Perry, Trump’s appointment for Secretary of Energy. A former governor of Texas, Perry stated during his 2011 presidential run that among the departments he wanted to eliminate was the Department of Energy.
“Perry’s from Texas, a heavily oil-based economy, so his Energy appointment could swing the focus from renewable, environmentally- friendly energy sources back to fossil fuels,” Timmons said.
That said, it’s not all bad news for environmentalists.
“A good thing is that renewable energy sources are expected to get bigger over the coming years, even without government help,” said Simmerer.
Additionally, states like California are already taking steps to keep environmental programs going as best they can. According to the Los Angeles Times, California governor Jerry Brown responded to threats that NASA’s Earth Science division might be stripped of funding by stating that “If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite.”
Al Gore is even reentering the public sphere with a new environmentalist documentary, “An Inconvenient Sequel” (a sequel, as the title indicates, to “An Inconvenient Truth”) that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month.
“The important thing is that people are getting out there and doing something about this,” Timmons said. “The environment’s going to take a hit, that’s for sure, but there are still things we can do that matter. People need to donate to organizations like the Sierra Club, Earth Justice, the Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy; we can’t just rely on the people in power to do what’s right for the planet anymore.”