2019-07-09 16:53:441 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
To environmentalists, Donald Trump touting his record in environmental issues seemed preposterous. It seems like all he does is side with business and take away the protections of the land, air, sea, animals, etc. Yet, in what seems to be an effort to appease younger voters, he strangely said perhaps no president had done more for the environment than he has.
The president delivered a speech on Monday defending his administration's record with the environment and covered his policies regarding marine debris and hunting on public lands.
While this is something he needs to address, it seems he's straying away from the facts. While it's true the environment is a top priority with younger voters and women, the economy and health care are still the top priorities with voters overall.
Some Democratic candidates have jumped in to take up environmental issues, leaving Trump to have to defend his record. However, this seems similar to health care last fall before the midterm elections. He tried promoting the GOP as the party of health care, and that went nowhere. His health care campaigning fell flat.
The same thing could happen if he tries to tout himself as good for the environment. He faced Cabinet members in his speech and said he'd instructed his deputies to handle the environment "so we can provide the highest quality of life to all Americans."
"We want the cleanest air, we want crystal clear water. And that's what we're doing," Trust remarked. "These are incredible goals that everyone in this country can rally behind, and they are rallying behind."
He boasted about the drinking water in the United States, noting that the White House is working "harder than many previous administrations" with the environment, adding, "Maybe almost all of them."
His critics were incredulous that he boasted of his environmental policies after dismantling so many. Just last month the EPA eased the restrictions on carbon emissions from power plants, and next up will be a decision on freezing stricter mileage standards for vehicles.
This comes along with federal data showing that the air quality in the U.S. is getting worse and that overall the U.S.'s greenhouse gas emissions are rising. Unhealthy days for the ozone and soot pollution rose last year to 799, up from 721 the year before. Carbon dioxide emissions grew by more than 3 percent last year.
"Regrettably, the president's rhetoric and the statements he's made on climate are, at best, disingenuous," said former Congress member Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), who has been urging his fellow Republicans to tackle environmental issues more quickly.
"This has obviously had an influence on his entire administration, where agencies and departments are fearful of even mentioning the term climate change or referring to carbon pollution. That's a bad policy strategy, and it's also a bad political strategy."
He believes the GOP is beginning to realize they can't afford to ignore the issues of climate change any longer.
"The party has wasted a lot of time over the last two decades," continued Curbelo. "Republicans generally have either ignored this issue or been mistaken about it. So there's a lot of work to do and not a lot of time because younger voters are losing their patience with the government's inaction on climate policy."
While the administration isn't necessarily looking for votes and support from environmentalists, they are hoping he can swing voters by showing them he's improved the economy without losing important environmental protections.
Environmental Qualify Chair Mary Neumayr said on Monday that Trump scheduled the speech after discussing the status of several environmental and energy policies with advisers. An official said he meets occasionally with around a dozen officials regarding environmental policies.
All 23 Democratic candidates have said they will rejoin the Paris climate agreement that Trump left. Former President Barack Obama had promised in the agreement that the U.S. would cut its carbon output between 26 and 28 percent by 2030.
Trump has also criticized the Green New Deal that is supported by many Democrats. This would eliminate America's fossil fuel by 2030 and provide economic protections for communities that are affected by the transition.
"The president will make the point that he has been successful, and his policies are proof that you can both grow the economy and protect the environment at the same time," said Tim Murtaugh, Trump's reelection campaign communications director.
He called the Green New Deal an "economy wrecker" and said the Democrats are "showing us what is exactly the wrong thing."
Despite environmental data stating the opposite, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said, "I do believe that our air is cleaner and our water is cleaner than other countries around the world. And I think the data supports that."
When it comes to smog or ozone pollution, the Health Effects Institute's State of Global Air ranks the U.S. 123rd out of 195 countries. Vehicle travel, electricity use, and industrial activity add to this.
The assistant vice president of national policy for the American Lung Association, Janice Nolen, said climate change is harming air quality as well. Higher temperatures contribute to the smog, and the rise of wildfires is leading to more soot in the air.
"Thousands and thousands of tons of this debris float onto our shores after it's dumped by other countries," said Trump when discussing the effort by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to clean up marine debris. "Thousands and thousands of tons of garbage come to us."
However, chief policy officer at Oceana, Jacqueline Savitz, said the administration recently refused to agree to a new international plan that requires countries to notify other countries that they are shipping them plastic waste, despite the U.S. routinely sending it to Asia.
"The fact that the U.S. is not a player in this, it's atrocious," said Savitz. "But it's consistent with our recent foreign policy on any of these pollution issues."
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