Deny it all he wants, Donald Trump did in fact tweet that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to damage American manufacturing. But, let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say that since 2012 his opinion on the matter has evolved. Even if he no longer considers the concept of climate change to be a conspiracy cooked up by China, he still clearly doubts the science, and that will have significant consequences.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
In our election guide, we drew a line in the sand over climate change, and we stand by that. More than 97 percent of climate scientists believe that average global temperatures are rising and that human activity is at least partially responsible for that. At every turn Donald Trump has rejected the scientific consensus, often with odd answers that exposed his misunderstanding of the issue: "I believe there's weather. I believe there's change, and I believe it goes up and it goes down, and it goes up again."
He even once dismissed the notion of global warming by saying, "We have much bigger problems." So don't expect climate change to be taken seriously by this administration. What does this mean in the short term? He has specifically said he would do away with the Waters of The US Rule and the EPA's Clean Power Plan. The former protects rivers, lakes and other wetlands while the latter set standards on carbon pollution produced by power plants. If that wasn't far enough, he has also suggested he might want to do away with the EPA entirely. Though, such a dramatic move would require some cooperation from Congress who would also have to figure out what to do with the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, which the EPA is tasked with enforcing.
Things get worse when you look at his potential cabinet appointments. Reports are that Forrest Lucas, the co-founder of Lucas Oil, is the front runner for Secretary of the Interior. In that position, Lucas would be in charge of national parks and wildlife refuges, and have serious influence over policies regarding offshore oil drilling, fracking and endangered species.
President-elect Trump's efforts to weaken regulations and set industries free to police themselves doesn't end with domestic programs. He has also threatened to pull out of the Paris Agreement, in which 200 nations agreed to greatly curtail greenhouse gas emissions. The goal of the agreement is to slow the rise of global temperatures, and keep them from climbing by more than 2 degrees celsius by 2100.
These efforts would certainly save America billions of dollars up front. But they will potentially come with dramatic price tags in the future. Trump's policies could have lasting impacts that will cause temperatures to continue to rise at an alarming rate. Some analysts suggest his plans will pump billions of tons more of carbon into the atmosphere than existed under President Obama. Increases in global temperature have been linked to everything from failing crops to shifts in fish populations.
This is bad for the planet and the country, but some places will feel the pain worse than others. With the federal government taking a hands-off approach to pollution and regulation, it will put increased pressure on states to pick up the slack. In liberal-leaning areas like California, it's likely that laws protecting the environment and restricting greenhouse gasses will pass. But in other parts of the country such efforts could face serious opposition.
This patchwork of rules could essentially create environmental ghettos where lax local laws cause the worst polluters to concentrate in particular areas. That could lead to increased health problems in pockets of the country that might already be under extreme economic pressure. And those issues could be compounded by increased pollution and the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act.
Under a Trump presidency, it's almost impossible to fathom how a public health crisis like the one in Flint, Michigan, might play out. Trump has said we should use our "limited financial resources" to ensure that "every person in the world has clean drinking water;" it's hard to see how he plans to accomplish that goal with a host of toothless government agencies.