Environmental issues have become more polarized even since the years of George W. Bush. One factor: The stakes for both parties surrounding climate change have risen.
Last weekend, President Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency told a conservative audience that calls for the agency to be eliminated are “justified.”
Key Obama policies – notably the Clean Power Plan to reduce utilities’ carbon dioxide emissions – should be dismantled, Scott Pruitt said.
On Monday, the president gave a glimpse of how far his administration is prepared to go to bring that vision about.
The president’s proposed budget calls for sizable budget cuts across the government – averaging of 10 percent of nondefense discretionary spending – to pay for a $54 billion boost in defense spending. The EPA looks set to be hit particularly hard. One report suggests its budget could be reduced by 24 percent.
Republicans have long had little love for the EPA. But the early days of the Trump administration appear to be something more. George W. Bush, after all, quoted scientists saying the rise in heat-trapping greenhouse gases was “due in large part to human activity.” He even sometimes expanded federal funding for climate research.
By contrast, the Trump administration has taken a much harder line.
The evolution of climate change into a badge of intense partisanship has contributed to the widening rift. Moreover, a new strain of the right’s ardently anti-regulatory philosophy has taken hold among many influential conservatives.
To some observers, that’s partly a reaction to an Obama administration that pulled environmental policy sharply to the left through executive actions. Now, the question appears to be: How far will the Trump administration go?
“They challenged science in the Bush administration, but it wasn’t this constant drumbeat,” says Christine Todd Whitman, who was the Bush administration’s EPA chief from 2001 to 2003. The Trump team is “undermining the credibility of science, and that is certainly very concerning.”
Read more at Why the EPA Faces Big Cuts Under Trump Budget Proposal