Campus News

Student environmental advocates, experts react to Trump’s executive order on EPA

UW-Madison student leaders of environmental advocacy organizations and professors with expertise in climate change expressed concern over President Donal Trump's executive orders that affect the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Image By: Kaitlyn Veto

The goals of the Environmental Protection Agency—to protect human and environmental health by passing regulatory legislation through U.S. Congress—have been jeopardized with the latest executive order signed by President Donald Trump.

Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that decreases the role of the federal government in enforcing climate change regulations, which would immediately impact at least six policies put in place during the Obama administration.

Co-coordinator for the UW-Madison student organization Climate Action 350 Lauren Peretz said the order to repeal climate change policies is especially upsetting for environmentalists who had already asked the Obama administration to take their policies further.

“Globally, there is no issue that is more important than climate change,” Peretz said. “Soon climate change will exacerbate every other issue that the world is facing at the moment and the United States should be leading the way in mitigating this issue.”

Trump’s order suspends the D.C. circuit court from reviewing President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which aimed to cut back U.S. emissions at power plants by 32 percent below levels emitted in 2005 by 2030. This is in addition to other deregulation, such as striking the National Environmental Policy Act, which currently enforces the formal review of major environmental actions taken by federal agencies.

Professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences Dan Vimont said the U.S. not only has a responsibility to find local ways to prevent climate change from happening, but also has to prepare for the inevitability of its impacts for at least the next century.

“Wisconsin will warm by about 6 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 30 to 40 years and by the end of the century, if we reduce the CO2 now, we level off around there,” Vimont said. “But if we don’t then that number practically doubles.”

UW-Madison senior Madeline Fischer said it is scary knowing leaders of the Trump administration either deny the existence of climate change or acknowledge it but refuse to say it has increased due to human behavior.

“A person [with these attitudes] having the power to shape policy and people’s opinions about the entire issue is not good,” Fischer said. “Especially considering this is a real problem and it will affect people's lives in ways we don’t even fully understand yet,”

Peretz said the People’s Climate March, which is set to take place April 22, is a great way for people who are upset with new policies to get involved and start making a difference at a grassroots level. The march is set to go from the Capitol to Madison Gas and Electric, which is currently the biggest climate change contributor in the Madison community. It gets 68 percent of its energy from burning coal, according to Peretz.

“I think we need to push Trump and his administration but we also need to realize efforts are probably going to be more successful on local levels,” Peretz said. “That’s where we should be putting a lot of our energy because that’s where we can actually make progress on various issues including climate change mitigation.”

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