By David Harris, SanDiego350
Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on 1/26/17
Two weeks ago, a sign-wielding crowd of 150 people gathered together in front of the downtown Federal Building to deliver an urgent message to California’s two Senators: reject four nominations made by President Trump to key cabinet-level level posts. Why? Because all four of these men deny the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.
At the peaceful but spirited rally, speakers Diane Takvorian of the Environmental Health Coalition and newly elected Councilmember Georgette Gomez called upon Senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris to reject Trump’s nominees. “I know how much California has done and plans to do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” stated Takvorian, “and I know Senators Feinstein and Harris support this progress. That’s why it’s now so critical for them to take a vocal, principled stand and oppose these climate denying nominees who value corporate profits over our communities.”
As a member of the California Air Resources Board, Takvorian is a leading advocate for comprehensive State measures to aggressively curb greenhouse gas emissions, as well as fighting for environmental justice to ensure that low-income communities get a fair share of renewable energy, infrastructure funding, and jobs to usher in the new green economy.
In addition to Takvorian, other speakers included Imam Taha Hassane of the Islamic Center of San Diego, Terry Bunting of the California Nurses Association, retired journalist Craig Rose, and Jim Miller of the American Federation of Teachers. The rally was organized by SanDiego350 and was one of forty held on the same day in cities throughout the country, in coordination with the international 350.org.
“The voice of the majority of Americans who care about our environment will be heard”, stated Ann Marie Tipton, a SD350 member who emceed the event. “SanDiego350 and our allies will continue to agitate and protest. Each and every one of us can make a difference by getting involved and telling our elected officials that we won’t give up our right to a healthy environment”.
Ms. Tipton recognized local elected officials who supported the call for Senators Feinstein and Harris to oppose the climate-denying nominees but were unable to attend the rally. The list of supporters included Assembly members Todd Gloria and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, and City of San Diego Councilmembers David Alvarez and Christopher Ward.
Trump has promised to act swiftly to revoke President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and has threatened to pull the US out of the historic Paris Agreement. This does not sit well with hundreds of the world’s leading scientists or America’s business community. Under the auspices of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC), the Paris Agreement brings together 195 participating nations, all of whom have pledged to drastically reduce greenhouse gases so as to limit global warming to no more than 2°Celsius.
The newly inaugurated “Denier-in-Chief” doesn’t believe the scientific consensus on climate change. Two of his numerous tweets on the topic demonstrate his utter ignorance: “NBC News just called it the great freeze – coldest weather in years. Is our country still spending money on the GLOBAL WARMING HOAX?” and “Give me clean, beautiful and healthy air – not the same old climate change (global warming) bullshit! I am tired of hearing this nonsense.”
Trump’s ridiculous statements about climate change should be quite troubling for the 70% of Americans who believe the scientific evidence of global warming, as well as the 97% of scientists who agree with the IPCC’s sobering assessment of the global climate.
It should really come as no surprise, then, that Trump has nominated climate deniers to key federal posts in order to carry out his reckless plan to increase the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. What is a surprise is that the men he has nominated have such blatant conflicts of interest.
Let’s begin with Rex Tillerson, who recently retired as CEO of Exxon Mobil after a 41 year career there. Exxon is the most profitable fossil fuel corporation in the world and has shelled out millions to organizations that actively engage in disinformation campaigns to spread doubt about the human role in climate change. In addition, Exxon hid climate research completed by its own scientists, beginning in the 1970’s, that drew the connection between burning fossil fuels, greenhouse gases, and global warming. The Attorney Generals of New York and Massachusetts have initiated fraud investigations to demonstrate that Exxon intentionally misled investors and the public about climate science.
Next up is Scott Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general who repeatedly sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to weaken critical environmental laws and regulations. Trump is bringing Pruitt to Washington to shake things up at the EPA, after having done absolutely nothing to protect his fellow Oklahomans from the huge spike in earthquakes caused by the fracking industry.
Making a comeback is Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas who has a consistent history of climate denial and a sterling record as Governor in eliminating environmental protections at the behest of the fossil fuel industry. He’s been nominated to oversee the Department of Energy, an agency that Perry once advocated eliminating (although he famously had difficulty remembering the name of the agency during a 2011 Presidential primary debate). One of his many conflicts of interest is that since February 2015 he has served on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, builder of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. If Perry takes charge of the Energy Department the “water protectors” at Standing Rock will likely be in his crosshairs.
Last but not least, Scott Zinke, a Montana congressman, advocates extracting more coal and it’s no wonder – his home state has America’s largest coal reserves. He also proposes leasing millions of acres of federal lands to fossil fuel companies. Who better to lead the Department of Interior and raffle off our treasured recreational areas and national forests?
The very act of nominating these four men, whose conflicts of interest should readily disqualify them from public service, demonstrates that Trump is not just challenging the role of the federal government in environmental affairs. It is apparent that he seeks to undermine the basic tenets of the modern environmental movement in America: conservation, environmental protection, biodiversity, sustainability, and stewardship of the global commons.
If left unchecked, Trump and his henchmen could systematically dismantle fifty plus years of progress on the environmental front; cut funding to NASA, NOAA, and various institutions across the county that are conducting crucial climate change research and education; and, impede the implementation of real solutions to halt global warming.
Whether you consider yourself an environmentalist or an ordinary citizen, let your voice be heard too. Call your Senator today.
Senator Dianne Feinstein: (202) 224-3841; Senator Kamala Harris: (202) 224-3553
David Harris is a climate action volunteer with SanDiego350. Over a 15 year span, he was an affordable housing manager and community development specialist for the cities of Oceanside, Encinitas, and Chula Vista. He began his career as a consumer advocate with CalPIRG and community educator with Environmental Health Coalition. A native San Diegan, David has lived in La Mesa for the past 10 years.