The Tale of Many Donalds and the Hopeful Environmentalist
By Dylan Handelsman, Staff Contributor
“On day one of the Trump Administration, we will ask Congress to immediately deliver a full repeal of Obamacare.” This line, quoted from then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s website, was just one of his promises to completely rid the country of the controversial healthcare law that Republicans have fought tooth and nail to repeal for the past five years. President-elect Trump has since delivered a slightly different message, telling Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” that he would keep “portions of the law requiring coverage of pre-existing conditions and children living at home under the age of 26.” He went so far as to say, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, that he “may seek to amend the statute rather than repeal it.” A far cry from his campaign promises, and one that surely left Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell uncomforted, to say the least.
“I will build a great wall—and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me—and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” Candidate Trump delivered these controversial remarks as he announced his bid for the White House, and centered his campaign on similarly grandiose immigration policy promises. President-elect Trump, in the same “60 Minutes” interview, has again walked back on his promises, claiming he would accept building a “fence instead of a wall in ‘certain areas.’”
I could go on distinguishing candidate Trump vs. President-elect Trump (see special prosecutor to “lock up” Hillary Clinton, Muslim ban, ripping up Iranian nuclear deal, or a 45% tariff on all Chinese made goods — all promises he has either toned down or refused to comment on), but let’s focus on his environmental policy, arguably one of the most consequential, yet least sexy/talked about issues.
On November 6, 2012, business mogul Trump tweeted “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Was he pandering to the political right? On its face, considering he was not running for elected office at that time, I’d say probably not. November 6, 2012, however, was the day President Obama defeated Mitt Romney, a man who Trump supported at the time. So, maybe it was pandering; who knows?
Candidate Trump was clearly a climate change denier. Throughout his campaign, candidate Trump pledged to either cancel the Paris Agreement or withdraw the United States from our commitments. He also pledged to withdraw funding from the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
President-elect Trump will certainly have the authority to back out from the Paris Agreement, but due to the diligence of the European Union, Trump can’t cancel it. On October 4, 2016, just over one month before the American voters elected Trump, the European Union decided to join the Paris climate deal, surpassing the threshold necessary for ratification.
While President Trump could withdraw the United States from the Paris deal, under International law he would have to comply with the four-year withdrawal process. A possible shortcut for President-elect Trump would be to withdraw from the UNFCCC entirely, a year long process. To say this is a frightening scenario is an understatement. Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, believes if the United States backs out from its climate commitments “it makes it much less likely that the world will ever meet [the emissions] target, and essentially ensures we will head into the danger zone.” What does this mean? More droughts, food shortages, extreme floods and storms, and, most importantly, less hope we will ever be able to fix such a consequential issue.
I’m not sure about you, but this long-time Democrat, former environmental policy Senate-staffer, and glass-half-full-kind-of-guy is looking for anything to hang on to. And on November 8, 2016, the American voters elected a man who has contradicted himself time and time again. A man who said one thing to increase his chances of winning, but changed his mind once he won. Who knows what this man believes.
And then I came across a full page advertisement taken out in the New York Times in 2009. It reads:
“Dear President Obama & The United States Congress, [t]omorrow leaders from 192 countries will gather at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to determine the fate of our planet. As business leaders we are optimistic that President Obama is attending Copenhagen with emissions targets. Additionally, we urge you, our government, to strengthen and pass Untied States legislation, and lead the world by example. We support your effort to ensure meaningful and effective measures to control climate change, an immediate challenge facing the United States and the world today. Please don’t postpone the earth. If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet. We recognize the key role that American Innovation and leadership play in stimulating the worldwide economy. Investing in a Clean Energy Economy will drive state-of-the-art energy security all while reducing the harmful emissions that are putting our planet at risk. We have the ability and the know-how to lead the world in clean energy technology to thrive in a global market and economy. But we must embrace the challenge today to ensure that future generations are left with a safe planet and a strong economy. Please allow us, the United States of America, to serve in modeling the change necessary to protect humanity and our planet.”
Among the signatories? You guessed it- Donald J. Trump. Am I confident, after making this discovery, that President Trump will walk back on his campaign promises and protect the environmental policies President Obama has championed? No. But considering the vast differences between business mogul Trump, candidate Trump, and President-elect Trump, I’m not without hope.
 Healthcare Reform to Make America Great Again, Donaldjtrump.com, https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions/healthcare-reform (last visited Nov. 16, 2016).
 Zachary Tracer, Trump Now Wants to Keep Popular Obamacare Provisions, Scrap Rest, Bloomberg, (Nov. 11, 2016, 3:53 PM), http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-11-11/trump-signals-flexibility-on-obamacare-citing-oval-office-talk.
 30 of Donald Trump’s Wildest Quotes, CBS News, http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/wild-donald-trump-quotes/14/ (last visited Nov. 16, 2016).
 Chelsea Bailey, Donald Trump Says Border Wall May Be Part Fence, Hints at Mass Incarcerations, NBC News (Nov. 13, 2016, 12:25 PM), http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/donald-trump-says-border-wall-may-be-part-fence-hints-n683191.
 Louis Jacobson, Yes, Donald Trump Did Call Climate Change a Chinese Hoax, Politifact (June 3, 2016, 12:00 PM), http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/jun/03/hillary-clinton/yes-donald-trump-did-call-climate-change-chinese-h/.
 Jean Chemnick, Could Trump Simply Withdraw U.S. from Paris Climate Agreement?, Scientific American (Nov. 10, 2016) , https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/could-trump-simply-withdraw-u-s-from-paris-climate-agreement/.
 Devin Henry, UN Makes Power Play Against Trump, The Hill (Oct. 5, 2016, 6:00 AM), http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/299310-un-makes-power-play-against-donald-trump.
 Jean Chemnick, Could Trump Simply Withdraw U.S. from Paris Climate Agreement?, Scientific American (Nov. 10, 2016), https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/could-trump-simply-withdraw-u-s-from-paris-climate-agreement/.
 Coral Davenport, Donald Trump Could Put Climate Change on Course for ‘Danger Zone’, N.Y. Times (Nov. 10, 2016), http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/11/us/politics/donald-trump-climate-change.html.
 Ben Adler and Rebecca Leber, Donald Trump Once Backed Urgent Climate Action. Wait, What?, Grist (June 8, 2016), http://grist.org/politics/donald-trump-climate-action-new-york-times/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=sailthru-post-notifications&utm_source=notification&utm_term=u%28Donald%20Trump%20once%20backed%20urgent%20climate%20action.%20Wait%2C%20what?%29.