Ahead of the United Nations’ annual climate summit beginning this week, scientists and policy experts are once again ringing alarm bells warning that the current efforts to slow climate change are falling short. Only a massive shift away from fossil fuels and a reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into the air can avert the oncoming disaster. But former President Donald Trump and his advisers have other ideas, all of which would only bring about a climate change-fueled apocalypse even faster.
As campaign officials and advisers recently told The Financial Times, if Trump is elected to a second term, his climate policies would be focused less on keeping the planet habitable at the end of the century and more on working to “maximize fossil fuel production.” Beyond simply cranking up output, Trump would also seek to roll back any environmental regulations that the Biden administration has issued and have Congress cut off the climate spending in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act.
In practice, some of those destructive goals would be easier to achieve than others. Forcing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to reverse its recent proposal to raise fuel economy standards on cars and light trucks would be relatively simple. Doing so would lower the incentive for automakers to swap out their gas-powered fleets for electric vehicles, improve the fuel efficiency of their gas-powered vehicles (or, ideally, both) and leave the country just as dependent on fossil fuels as ever. But for Trump, that would be a feature, not a bug.
It would be more difficult, however, to turn off the IRA’s spigot of funding for clean energy investments. The climate law included massive tax credits for clean energy, loans from the Energy Department to build electric vehicle and battery plants and $110 billion in grants and rebates geared toward mitigating climate change. An analysis from Heatmap last month found that only $11.5 billion, or 10%, of those grants and rebates have already gone out the door, with the administration rushing to spend the rest ahead of 2025 and a possible Trump return to office.
Normally those billions would make for an easy target for Republicans to attack the law as wasteful big government spending. But “more than 80% of investment in large-scale clean energy and semiconductor manufacturing” in the IRA and the CHIPS Act has been allocated toward Republican-held congressional districts, according to an August analysis from The Financial Times. While House Republicans are particularly brazen in how willing they are to take credit for investments they voted against, it’s always easier to rail against laws before they’re implemented than to reverse them afterward. (See: the GOP’s failure to repeal Obamacare.)
Beyond the likelihood of Trump’s following through on his campaign pledges — never a sure thing — let’s focus on the nihilistic ideology that’s propelling these promises in the first place. Yes, there’s obviously the knee-jerk reaction that Trump has often displayed, in which anything that Democrats are for he must be against. Republicans also can’t admit that one of their biggest talking points is a lie: Though President Joe Biden has taken steps to reduce domestic consumption, the U.S. remains the world’s top oil and natural gas producer, no matter how much the GOP pretends otherwise.
But for Trump, the future of the planet isn’t a concern. David Banks, a former Trump adviser, told the FT that Trump is a “climate skeptic” and that for the former president, energy policy is “more of an economic concern and competitiveness concern.” It’s stunning to see this view presented as though it’s perfectly logical. This refusal to see what’s coming is like being obsessed about who can build the bigger sandcastle as a tidal wave threatens to wipe out the entire beach. And it would be one thing though if it were just Trump who felt this way. Instead, he’s surrounded by people who are heavily invested in exacerbating that skepticism of his, turning it into a climate policy that benefits the fossil fuels industry and threatens the well-being of everyone on the planet.
That includes the drafters of Project 2025, a massive guidebook for a second Trump term drawn up by the conservative Heritage Foundation. According to The Financial Times, the initiative would see “the elimination of several Energy Department agencies central to Biden’s climate agenda, including the Loan Programs Office, which is disbursing $400 billion to help industries decarbonize, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and the Clean Energy Corps.”
There’s been a lot of focus on Project 2025’s more immediately dire provisions, like the proposed autocratic overhaul of the Justice Department and transformation of the civil service into an army of pro-Trump loyalists. But the organized effort to incinerate what few strides we’ve made toward stopping climate change shouldn’t be overlooked. And the amount of money that has been pouring into Project 2025 (and groups advising the initiative) has only increased, as NBC News recently reported.
The efforts to stop what has already begun in terms of long-term impact on our planet’s livability have been paltry at best. But the current, unsustainable status quo isn’t enough for Trump and his allies. They want to make things even worse, in the name of “energy independence” and other slogans to cover up their willingness to trade human lives for higher profits and share prices. The level of myopia and short-term thinking on display will haunt humanity for centuries to come — if we last that long.