Texas’ leaders must recognize threat of climate change

Alden Marshall

Last Tuesday, Hillary Clinton may have lost the presidency to Donald Trump, but the fight against climate change has reached a point of no return and Trump has shown little interest in turning that back.

The Obama Administration expanded the EPA’s power following a 2007 Supreme Court ruling. That ruling rebuked the Bush administration and asserted that the EPA has a responsibility to regulate greenhouse gases if the science could back it up (it does). Obama rightfully took this authority and used it as the basis of his Clean Power Plan, which would cut power plant emissions by 32 percent of 2005 levels. As the second biggest polluter on the planet, the United States has a moral obligation to act on behalf of the climate, a duty that we agreed to uphold by participating in the Paris climate accords. 

Unfortunately, much of Obama’s environmental legacy could go up in smoke under conservative control of all three branches of government (once Trump appoints a conservative justice to the Supreme Court).

After famously calling climate change a “Chinese hoax” and trumpeting an energy plan that promised to end the “war on coal,” President-elect Trump will soon have the power to put his rhetoric into action from the power of the Oval Office. This has made Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick very excited. 

Shortly after the election results came in, Patrick told supporters he was excited by “the fact that we’re not going to have the EPA on our back.” Dan Patrick seems to suggest that upholding our commitment to the world and future generations is bad for Texas’ reputation as a business-friendly state. However, carbon emissions have virtually flatlined for the last three years, proving that we can bounce back from the Great Recession while making progress on the climate (granted, stability is not enough — more reductions are needed to hit the global two degree target). To make matters worse, this isn’t just the routine political posturing we’re used to from the lieutenant governor. He now has the entire federal government on his side.

Under the Clean Power Plan, states have the latitude to create their own plans to combat climate change and meet the target set for them by the Environmental Protection Agency. Under a Trump presidency — and an EPA directed by a climate change skeptic — state-submitted plans could be allowed to meet a subpar standard. Or worse, a President Trump could go through on his campaign promise to cancel our end of the Paris climate agreement, much to Obama’s disapproval.

Our climate isn’t cooling anytime soon, and we’re the last generation that has the ability to do something about it. Dan Patrick won’t have to suffer the devastating effects of climate change, but my generation will. 

While the US holds worldwide clout, Texas and its leaders have the unique opportunity to sway climate policy once President Obama leaves office. Over 90 percent of millennials and over 70 percent of seniors believe that climate change is occurring. It’s time for our state’s leadership to recognize that.

Marshall is a government freshman from Mabank. Follow him on Twitter @aldenmarshall.