President Trump has withdrawn the United States from the international Paris climate change accord, sought to roll back or weaken over 80 environmental regulations and punted on global environmental leadership.

“On the issue of environmental stewardship,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, “Trump is seen around the world as a Darth Vader-like figure.”

But this afternoon, Trump delivered a speech billed as “America’s Environmental Leadership.”

He was flanked by his two senior environmental officials — one a former lobbyist for the coal industry and the other a former oil lobbyist.

But the idea for the speech did not start with the president. It started with consultants on his re-election campaign who have discovered that his environmental record is a definite turnoff for two key demographics — millennials and suburban women, according to two people familiar with the plans.

In an administration that has often had a muddled approach to policy, both Trump’s allies and his enemies agree that in initiating the rollback of environmental rules he has clearly delivered on his campaign promises.

In his speech, he trumpeted that rollback as part of what administration officials say is an economy-boosting approach to the environment that could appeal to at least some of the voters unhappy with his record.

Trump also lauded the fact that the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions have dropped about 10 percent in recent years.

But that drop is largely due to market shifts leading to an increase in the use of natural gas, which produces about half the greenhouse gas pollution of coal.

Under Trump’s policies, which are intended to promote the use of more polluting coal, those emissions are now expected to rise.

“These steps to support coal-based power in fact run in the opposite direction of the cause of climate change,” said Richard Newell, the president of Resources for the Future, a nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental research organization in Washington.

“It is disingenuous to both celebrate the decline in U.S. CO2 emissions at the same time that one promotes the use of coal power,” he said. “You can’t have both.”

Trump’s most notable efforts to weaken environmental protections have been on climate change, which many environmental scientists and policy experts call the defining threat to humanity of the 21st century.

Trump has publicly mocked the established science of human-caused climate change.

And he has proudly sold himself as a champion of the coal industry — even as emissions from burning coal remain one of the chief causes of global warming.

Last month, in a move that represented the Trump administration’s most direct effort to date to protect the coal industry, the E.P.A. finalized its plan to replace former President Obama’s stringent rule on coal pollution with a new rule that would keep plants open longer and significantly increase the nation’s emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution.

This summer, the E.P.A. is expected to finalize another plan that would replace Obama’s strict regulations on planet-warming tailpipe pollution, replacing them with a new rule that experts say is likely to function as a total repeal of the original regulation.

The incongruous message of environmental preservation is so starkly at odds with Trump’s own record, experts say, that the moment already smacks of the surreal.

“It is an utter farce for the president to talk about America’s environmental leadership, when he has been a champion of the polluters,” Brinkley said.

 

Attribution:The New York Times
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