Leaders of prominent environmental organizations are concerned that Donald Trump was elected president. But they have a clear message for their supporters: Don’t mourn. Organize!
Gene Karpinski, the president of the League of Conservation Voters, said Wednesday that it’s important to keep campaigning for the environment even though Trump has decried climate change as a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.
“We’re going to keep in his face to make sure that he understands that the public knows that climate change is real and needs solutions,” he said during a conference call with reporters. “We’ll be in the Congress, in the courts, in the boardrooms, in the streets, organizing the broad public that supports action on climate change.”
The League of Conservation Voters had endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton in November 2015 when she was vying against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the party’s nod.
Karpinski noted that climate change was not a key focal point of the 2016 race. But Trump has had no problem dismissing the scientific consensus that manmade climate change threatens to upend the global status quo. Indeed, his Twitter feed throughout the years has called for “global warming” whenever there was a cold spell.
On the policy front, Trump has also made his feelings clear. The president-elect promised to back the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, in which nearly 200 nations pledged to reduce their carbon emissions so that the average global temperature increase is below 2°C.
Yahoo News asked Karpinski what else Trump could do — aside from reneging on the Paris Agreement — that would also have a devastating effect on the environmental movement.
“Look, the polluters have a wish list. You mentioned one of them, which is the international agreement,” he responded. “The Clean Power Plan is another, the Keystone Pipeline was another, drilling in the Arctic refuge is another. So there’s a long list of things they might try. And we should just assume that, because I’m sure the polluters are plotting in their downtown offices about what potential they have. And all of those fights are critically important.”
On the same conference call, Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, argued that the celebrity businessman turned president-elect is a clear danger to the planet.
“Make no mistake, the election of Donald Trump could be devastating to our climate and our future. Donald Trump now has the unflattering distinction of being the only head of state in the world to reject the scientific consensus that climate change is real and that mankind is the cause,” he said.
Brune further said that Trump will face a simple choice: putting the U.S. back on a path toward climate disaster or listening to public pleas to take a leadership role in combating climate change. He guaranteed that Trump will face a hard political fight if he wants to roll back President Obama’s progress on the issue.
Anna Aurilio, who runs the D.C. office for Environment America and was also on the Wednesday call, said her group was terrified when Trump vowed to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, dismantle the EPA, and flat-out denied climate science.
“We’ve made amazing progress,” she said. “At this point in time, we can’t afford to stall out. It’s not enough to defend against any rollbacks. We have to accelerate the progress if we’re going to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement.”
Aurilio nevertheless quoted Clinton’s concession speech from earlier in the day when the defeated Democratic nominee said the American people owe Trump “an open mind and the chance to lead.”