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Illinois, Chicago must help stop Trump's ruinous environmental policy

Illinois already is experiencing the kind of effects scientists warned us would come with climate change. Lake Michigan has swung from a record low to such high levels that homes and infrastructure along its shores are threatened, and experts say volatile lake levels are part of our new normal. Incessant rains have limited farmers’ ability to grow crops.

This week, more than 11,000 scientists warned us that people around the world are on the way toward “untold suffering” because of climate change.

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So what is President Donald Trump’s administration doing about that?

Trying to make climate change worse, of course.

Both Illinois and Chicago should work to counteract Washington’s mistaken and dangerous policies wherever and whenever possible. Apparently, Trump wants all the “untold suffering” he can get.

Here is what the Trump administration is up to:

On Monday, it gave its formal notification to the United Nations that it would pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The agreement was only a down payment on what needs to be done, and Trump isn’t even willing to take that step.

Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency is working to roll back regulations to limit methane emissions — which are powerful greenhouse gases — from sites on public lands. Scientists tell us we need to do all we can to keep more greenhouse gases from escaping into the atmosphere, where they warm the planet. This policy would take us in the other direction.

The White House continues to encourage drilling for fossil fuels, which warm the planet when they are burned. In September, it said it would seek to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain to oil and gas exploration. In October, it said it would open 725,000 acres of California central coast to oil and gas lease sales, ending a moratorium of five years.

Instead, the nation should be pulling out all stops to boost the amount of renewable energy it relies on.

In September, Trump went after California’s eco-friendly auto emission standards, and later pressured several auto companies to join him. And in August, his administration proposed dramatically scaling back restrictions on climate-changing emissions from coal-fired power plants. Both of these efforts would increase the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and make global warming worse.

Addressing climate change is difficult because it requires a worldwide effort and because we rely on some of the things that generate the most greenhouse gases: transportation, electricity, heating and air conditioning.

But Trump isn’t seeking thoughtful solutions — or any solutions at all.

Meanwhile, the news from the scientific world about climate change keeps getting increasingly dire. Among the findings:

A new landmark study found rising seas will threaten three times as many people over the next 30 years as previously expected. Scientists now put that number at 40 million more than they thought. And sea levels will continue to rise dramatically even if the world somehow manages to slash greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2030.

In September, leading climate scientists reported that in recent years the rise in sea levels, the warming of the Earth, the shrinking of ice sheets and carbon pollution have all accelerated. Last month, the National Audubon Society said climate change is threatening two-thirds of America’s birds with extinction.

In January, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose nearly 3 percent in 2018, the biggest jump since 2010, making it clear we are not doing enough to turn things around.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said she plans to bring back the city’s Department of the Environment.

But in Illinois, it appears this year’s signature environmental law, the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which is designed to move the state to 100% clean energy by 2050, won’t be brought up in the fall veto session. The bill should be at the top of the Legislature’s to-do list when it convenes in January.

Illinois can’t stop the Trump administration from attacking the environment and climate. But we can put up as big a bulwark as possible to protect our state and our planet.

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Source: chicago.suntimes.com