Several students and professors expressed their apprehension for the climate’s future under president-elect Donald Trump’s policies on environmental issues.
Trump promised voters during his campaign that he will dismantle the United States Environmental Protection Agency and withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Instead of focusing on the environment, Trump aims to prioritize the domestic economy.
The Paris Agreement aims to keep the global temperature increase under 2degrees Celsius and adapt to climate change. Participating countries individually pledge to specific goals that will help reduce climate change.
Trump also chose Myron Ebell, an environmental worker who has denied that climate change exists, to lead the EPA’s transition to his administration. Ebell believes that global warming will be beneficial because there will be less severe winter storms.
Michael Lubell, the director of public affairs at the American Physical Society, has called Trump “the first anti-science president.”
But UCLA officials don’t plan to change the university’s sustainability goals under a Trump presidency.
“We will continue to move forward toward carbon neutrality, and California will continue to lead on climate policy,” said Nurit Katz, UCLA’s chief sustainability officer.
UCLA is part of the Global Climate Leadership Council, a UC organization that pledges to aim for carbon neutrality by 2025. Additionally, UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge aims to help Los Angeles use 100 percent renewable energy and 100 percent local water by 2050.
Still, students dedicated to improving environmental sustainability said they are afraid of the potential consequences that may result from Trump’s lack of interest in environmental policy.
Austin Park, a fourth-year civil and environmental engineering student who leads the sustainability action research teams under UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability,said he thinks the worst thing Trump could do right now is withdraw from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which includes the Paris Agreement. If this were to happen, Park said the U.S. would lose vital international connections and agreements that could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s been stressful,” Park said. “I’ve been working continuously on climate change throughout my undergraduate years, and now Trump can dissolve everything I’ve been working on.”
Environmental law professor Ann Carlson said although it is difficult to completely withdrawfrom the Paris Agreement, it is actually quite easy for the U.S.not to live up to its promises under the agreement.
Lani Maher, a third-year law student and president of the Environmental Law Society, said although Trump is not able to individually create or change laws, he can influence federal policy. He will not face much opposition in his decisions because of his choice in cabinet and the Supreme Court, and the Republican majority in Congress.
Maher said she thinks that under a Trump administration, it is unlikely the EPA will be able to successfully enforce carbon emission limits on companies, because Trump will work to repress the agency’s influence.
Park said he thinks the U.S. should take responsibility for developing countries and their populations suffering from the effects of climate change, because the U.S. is ranked second in greenhouse gas emissions.
“We might be fine, maybe pay a little more for air conditioning, but those with no voice are going to be the most affected,” Park said.
Virginia Su, a fourth-year political science student and co-director of Student Wellness Commission Earth, said she encourages students to reach out to local governments and ask them to enact environmental protection measures. She said this could help replace the lack of initiative in the federal government to solve environmental issues.
“This is a time where it’s important for people not to feel discouraged,” Su said. “Everyone always underestimates the power of one voice.”
Park and the undergraduate student government are working together to write a nonpartisan letter to the Trump administration about their concerns about the environment’s future. Park said they want to emphasize to Trump the basic human and environmental rights that must remain protected under his presidency.
“The air we breathe isn’t affiliated with Democratic, Republican, liberal, conservative or any other political party,” Park said. “It’s just air, and everyone has the right to breathe clean air.”