The ever green Washington Post (WashPo) has published one of those year-end lists we all love so much. This one is “The most consequential environmental stories of 2017.”
I tend to agree with the list, but while WashPo thinks it is a list of mostly bad things, I think it is a list of mostly good things. So while we do not see eye to eye, we are nose to nose. (Please do not call the metaphor police.)
Of course it is mostly about President Trump. The first paragraph says it nicely:
“President Trump made his mark in the energy and environment world during his first year in Washington. Many of his actions aimed to undo work from the Obama era. Trump all but abandoned the nation’s efforts to combat climate change, and he shrank national monuments that President Barack Obama had established or sought to preserve. Trump scaled back regulations on the fossil fuel industry and pushed for more drilling on land and at sea.”
Sounds sensible to me, so I am happy, but WashPo not so much. In fact the lead photo in this article is a sight to behold. The caption says it shows President Trump leaving the Rose Garden after announcing that the US would not go forward with the Paris Agreement (just as it did not with its predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol).
Miraculously we cannot see the President’s face, even though he is full front and center. This may be art or it may be Photoshop, but in no case is it journalism. Who runs a lead photo with no face? WashPo!
Second to leaving the silly Paris Agreement is the story of Scott Pruitt running EPA. This is one we have been tracking closely and it is good news for sure. Obama tried to bulldoze the States and now a States guy is driving the bulldozer, but in reverse. To my mind this is far more important than leaving the meaningless Paris Agreement, because EPA has real power. Lots of it.
Mind you WashPo does make a careless mistake here. They refer to Pruitt as “one of Trump’s most effective Cabinet members.” On the contrary, EPA is not a Cabinet Department. It is actually what is called an Independent Agency, although no one is sure just what that means. Independent of what? But the basic idea is that the President cannot tell EPA what to do, which may be good because Pruitt is probably tougher than Trump in this case.
We then get into some specific actions, such as making the new National Monuments a lot smaller. Personally I fail to see how a “monument” can occupy 3 million acres. On the other hand, freeing up millions of acres of accessible ocean land for oil and gas exploration makes a great deal of sense. Same for dry Federal land.
There is one Congressional story on the list. This is some relatively minor reform proposals related to the Endangered Species Act, which WashPo naturally reports as “attacks.” There is not even any legislation here, just proposals.
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma get listed, as do the western wildfires. I agree that these are bad, but they are not human-caused climate change. If anything the good news is that these were the first major landfalling hurricanes in over ten years. This is not mentioned of course. Also, WashPo says that Miami was “devastated” by Irma, which is news to me.
The last item on the list is certainly not among the most consequential environmental stories of 2017. This was the so-called Climate March on Washington, which was just a small and mostly silly demonstration. Even WashPo focused mostly on the signs.
So all things considered it was a relatively mild year. Clearly the high point was the incoming Trump Administration. If WashPo is unhappy then I am at least encouraged. Mind you there is still a great deal to be done, so here is to 2018. Go for it.