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Environmentalists brace for a big reversal of climate gains under a Trump administration

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Environmentalists brace for a big reversal of climate gains under a Trump administration

WATCH  | President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly trying to figure out  the quickest way he can withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, the landmark international agreement to keep manmade global warming in check.

Trump to prioritize Paris agreement pullout

On Monday, a source on Trump's transition team told Reuters that Trump would prioritize pulling out of the agreement, which won the backing of 200 nations and the enthusiastic support of President Obama.

The agreement aims to keep the world from warming more than an average of 2 degrees Celsius, which most environmental scientists consider the limit the Earth can withstand before irreversible and catastrophic changes to the climate.

[Environmentalists are] definitely having an 'Empire Strikes Back'/Rebel Alliance moment right now.
Anthony Rogers-Wright

Big losses for greens

It's just one of many environmental policy reversals green groups are preparing for under Trump, who campaigned partially on promises to boost fossil fuel production and repeal environmental protection regulations.

'Freaking out'

“I think that a lot of us are freaking out about the fact that, at least when it pertains to policy, we could potentially be starting from scratch," said Anthony Rogers-Wright, the policy and organizing director at Environment Action.

And "starting from scratch" doesn't just refer to the Paris climate agreement. Over the course of his presidency, Obama implemented new regulations on carbon dioxide emissions, expanded water protection laws and rejected the infamous Keystone XL pipeline.

During his campaign, Trump promised to undo all of that. 


Trump: We'll protect environment

Trump has promised to do away with all these regulations without hurting the environment.

"We’re going to do all this while taking proper regard for rational environmental concerns," he said in a May 2016 speech outlining his energy plan. "We are going to conserve our beautiful natural habitats, reserves and resources."

But representatives from leading green groups consider this a farce, because the president-elect doesn't think man-made climate change is real.

'Dumpster fire'

The Sierra Club, for instance, called Trump's energy plan a "dumpster fire" during the campaign, deeming him "the worst candidate for our climate and our environment in history." And after Trump's victory, the group's stance didn't seem to change.

"The election of Donald Trump could be devastating for our climate and our future," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said last week.

Trump faces challenges

But in some cases, Trump faces challenges living up to some of his environmental policy promises. The Paris climate agreement, for example,  states that countries can't pull out for four years after it takes effect.

Trump is reportedly looking for a legal way around that. But there are other complications, including potentially aggravating U.S. allies by pulling out of an agreement with such broad global support.

Consequences for withdrawal

There have been signals that there could be consequences if Trump pulls the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy this week proposed that Europe impose a carbon tax on American imports if Trump pulls out of the pact. 

Current French President Francois Hollande is also urging Trump not to withdraw from the deal.

The agreement was historic. But what we must say here is that this agreement is irreversible.
Francois Hollande

"The United States, the most powerful economy in the world, the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, must respect the commitments that were made," Hollande said on Tuesday.

 "It's not simply their duty, it's in their interest."

Trump's most widely-cited remarks on climate change came in the form of a 2012 tweet.

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