The United States House of Representatives on Dec. 18, 2019, approved two Articles of Impeachment against President Donald J. Trump. I believe a third article is needed, that of “Worsening of the Climate Crisis.”
The House of Representatives determines what constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors,” and harm to the country is one practical criterion. Certainly, Article I and Article II describe significant potential harm to the United States. But Article III describes definitive injury to our country now, and the potential for devastating injury in the future. I propose the revision below of the Articles of Impeachment.
ARTICLE I: ABUSE OF POWER
ARTICLE II: OBSTRUCTION OF CONGRESS
ARTICLE III: WORSENING OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS
(1) Scientific Reality Denial. The heart of Article III is President Trump’s rejection of the science of climate change. The greenhouse effect was discovered in 1859. Upon that foundation was built a massive body of peer-reviewed scientific literature, establishing the details of man-made (anthropogenic) climate change. This science is accepted by essentially every reputable climatologist on Earth, hundreds of global scientific bodies, the U.S. military, most world religions and 197 nation signatories to the Paris Agreement. Yet President Trump rejects climate science and claims, without proof, that climate change is a “Chinese hoax.” This denial of climate change, a concept as well established as the theory of gravity, has resulted in many harmful Trump administration policies.
(2) Paris Agreement Withdrawal. President Trump filed his intent to remove the United States from the Paris Agreement, effective Nov. 4, 2020. The United States thus lost its international leadership role in dealing with the climate crisis and has sabotaged recent climate summits, including COP25 in Madrid. The United States has become a climate pariah under President Trump.
(3) Clean Power Plan Repeal. President Trump’s halting the rollout of this plan killed the United States’ most powerful strategy to cut the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that produce global warming. With Trump’s ineffective Affordable Clean Energy replacement power plan, an additional 1,700 Americans will also die annually from air pollution.
(4) Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards Weakening. By reducing these vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, President Trump would increase GHG emissions, increase dangerous tailpipe pollution, increase lung disease and cost citizens more in larger gasoline purchases. In the United States, 53,000 die annually from tailpipe pollution, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study.
(5) Refrigerant Prohibition Repeal. President Trump stopped enforcement of a 2015 rule that prevented the use of the refrigerant hydrofluorocarbon, a greenhouse gas that is 5,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide over 20 years.
(6) Methane Emissions Reporting Cancellation. President Trump cancelled a requirement that oil and gas companies report their methane emissions. Measurement of methane is crucial in detecting leaks, which can lead to technologies to decrease the leaks. After carbon dioxide, methane is the second most important GHG and has 84 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide over 20 years.
(7) Endangered Species Abandonment. President Trump withdrew protection of endangered marine mammals and sea turtles on the West Coast. This action was especially destructive at a time when we are experiencing the sixth mass extinction, with loss of 3 billion birds in North America since 1970, for example.
(8) Massive Ocean Extraction Proposal. President Trump proposed opening most of America’s coastal waters for offshore oil and gas drilling. This action benefits only the fossil-fuel coffers while extracting fuels we must not burn and exposing our pristine waters to the risk of another devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
(9) Extensive Additional Deregulation. The examples of harmful deregulation above are only a few of 80 instances of Trump deregulation found in research by Harvard and Columbia law schools and analyzed by the New York Times. Some of these examples are now law, some have been rejected by the courts and others are under litigation.
In summary, President Trump is deemed unfit for office given the high crimes and misdemeanors described in Articles I, II and III. In our modern era, in which science and technology are critical for a functioning society, President Trump’s rejection of science is a dangerous incompetence. The gold standard of climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, states that the impacts of climate change are already evident, will multiply this century and will become devastating if global mean temperature increase is more than 1.5 degree Celsius. To prevent this temperature increase, the world must slash GHG emissions approximately 7% each year. In contradiction of this requirement, U.S. emissions rose 3.4% in 2018 under President Trump. This increase is not surprising as all the examples of deregulation above will increase greenhouse-gas emissions, as they benefit the fossil-fuel industry and other corporations.
California and Australia are scorched by hellish wildfires, Africans suffer famine from climate-worsened drought and sea-level rise is drowning homes of the Bangladeshi. Meanwhile, President Trump adopts policies that will enrich himself and the fossil-fuel industry, while inflaming this climate crisis. By the criterion of presidential harm to the United States (and the world), President Trump must be removed from office.