May 23, 2016 by


CREDIT: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Mary Dickens holds a sign outside a Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump campaign rally in Boca Raton, Fla., Sunday, March 13, 2016.

Donald Trump has officially taken aim at the environment. And environmentalists are starting to aim back.

The billionaire and presumptive Republican presidential nominee fired first shots on Friday, when he announced his key energy policy adviser: U.S. Congressman Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican who loves drilling for oil and denies human-caused climate change. Cramer is staunchly opposed to president Obama’s landmark climate change regulations, and is widely expected to advise Trump to repeal them.

Trump fired once more on Tuesday, telling Reuters that he would, at minimum, “renegotiate” the U.N. global climate accord, an agreement between nearly 200 nations to keep global warming in check. “At a maximum, I may do something else,” Trump said, implying he would dismantle the agreement completely.

Environmentalists have known Trump’s position on the environment and climate for years. The conspiracy theorist billionaire, for example, once said he thinks climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese (Trump later said the sentiment was “obviously a joke“) . He also apparently believes cold weather during winter disproves the theory of global climate change.

But until this week, Trump had never really indicated how far he’d go to act on his beliefs about global warming. And now, environmentalists are starting to take notice.

On Tuesday afternoon, almost immediately after the Reuters story was published, the Sierra Club held a call with reporters to denounce the presumptive GOP presidential nominee and his idea to “renegotiate” the Paris climate deal.

“Trump may have gotten his start in reality TV, but now it’s time for a dose of actual reality,” John Coequyt, Sierra Club’s director of international climate campaigns, said during the call. “Besides the fact that his agenda is simply wrong, Trump also doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Part of the call was to explain that it would be very difficult for Trump to renegotiate the deal. Although it hasn’t actually been implemented yet, if enough nations join it before president Obama leaves office, the next president wouldn’t be able to touch it for four years. At that point, it would be very difficult for President Trump to re-do an agreement that countries had been working on for so long.

But a larger part of the call was simply to double down on anti-Trump rhetoric. Holly Shulman, a Sierra Club spokesperson, said that Trump’s comments showed that environmentalists must unite behind literally any other presidential candidate.

“This election, the choice between the candidates on the climate crisis — no matter who the Democratic candidate winds up being — could not be more clear,” said Shulman. “Donald Trump is ignoring the climate crisis and will do anything he can to dismantle government safeguards even if clean air and water are put at risk.”

The Sierra Club continued its anti-Trump crusade on Wednesday, claiming Trump had been sent a four-page energy policy proposal from Cramer which recommended gutting president Obama’s climate regulations. The group called Trump’s campaign advisers, including Cramer, a “clown car full of climate deniers that churns out half-baked ideas regularly.”

Representatives from other environmental groups agreed, telling ThinkProgress that a Trump presidency would be dangerous for the environment — and that people who care about it need to show up at the polls in November.

“No one concerned with the environment can vote for Donald Trump,” said Ben Schreiber, the climate and energy program director at Friends of the Earth Action, which endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) last year. “The key to this election is for the majority of Americans who care about climate including our members and activists to turn up to vote for the environment.”

Schreiber noted, however, that Trump’s previous statements calling climate change “bullshit, a tax and a canard” aren’t abnormal when it comes to the Republican Party, which he said is “full of candidates running on oil cash.” Indeed, 59 percent of House Republicans and 70 percent of Senate Republicans question the science behind human-caused climate change. Combined, those lawmakers have received a total of $73,294,380 from fossil fuel companies.

Brad Johnson, the political director of Climate Hawks Vote — which has also endorsed Sanders — echoed the sentiment that Trump is really no different than any other Republican when it comes to the environment.

“It would be dishonest for me to say that this is news that a Republican presidency would threaten climate work we’ve been doing for years,” he said. “Donald Trump is in the mainstream of the Republican party when it comes to climate, which is this extremist conspiracy theory land.”

Instead of focusing on denouncing Trump, however, Johnson said Climate Hawks Vote would continue to focus on highlighting Sanders’ climate plan, which the group considers a gold standard toward avoiding catastrophic climate change.

“We think that what’s crucial for Democrats at all levels to do is not just try to say that Trump is bad, but to present a positive vision on climate,” he said. “We Democrats need to provide that contrasting positive vision … [and make] climate denial a disqualifying position for a candidate.”

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