As we all know, the current COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed the news and daily lives around the globe. There is significant coverage on updates surrounding the virus spread and daily press briefings from the President, but while citizens and lawmakers have been focused on how to stay healthy and keep up with finances in an uncertain economy, the Trump administration took the opportunity to reduce environmental protections.
A policy put in place in 2012 during the Obama administration requiring car manufacturers to increase fuel efficiency on new vehicles by 5% each year until 2026 has now been reduced to 1.5% annually by the Trump administration. The original ruling was an important step in protecting the environment from the devastating effects of CO2 emissions and preventing citizens’ exposure to harmful air pollutants. In a 2016 review of the plan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that automakers were actually exceeding the efficiency requirements. Additionally, by the EPA’s own estimates from 2016, the original guidelines would have saved Americans $92 billion in fuel efficiencies over the vehicles’ lifetime.
This maneuver in the best of times would be met with outcry from scientists and environmentalists alike, similar to the response when Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement and rolled back support for the EPA. The global climate strike, which took place in September, displayed just how overwhelmingly the people of the United States and the world feel this is an urgent issue. Instead, this move comes during a time of social distancing as a result of a respiratory pandemic. The irony of not protecting the American people from respiratory distress in the future whilst in the midst of a crisis now cannot be missed.
The current pandemic has highlighted that we are not prepared as a nation for a catastrophic event which leads to supply chain disruption and an increase in medical needs. Climate change will result in more natural disasters which will similarly test our hospitals and citizens.
In addition to failing to lead the nation during this pandemic, the Trump administration is not learning from their shortcomings nor listening to expert advice. Instead, they are setting up the American people for more hardship before we are even through the current crisis. This is not how you lead a country but how you lead a business, one that is solely interested in its own future financial gain and not on the human cost on the other side of the equation.
The decision is expected to be disputed by individual state governments. But in order to protect Virginia and the environment at large, we need to have sound representation in Congress. We need a representative who believes that climate change is a major issue threatening our way of life and who will fight to protect the environment and its inhabitants.