Evergreen Issues: Climate change, public land access and women in office

Every Tuesday, we bring you the most important environmental or women’s issues making headlines. While we’ll generally be limiting our list to three issues, that by no means mitigates the other important controversies and accomplishments out there.

For our first edition of Evergreen Issues, we’re outlining the three matters you should be watching in 2018.

1. AMERICA’S ROLE IN CLIMATE CHANGE

From the start, President Trump set the tone for his presidency when it comes to environmental issues. Last summer, he announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate accord when U.S. involvement expires in 2020. Over the holidays, as the East Coast experienced frigid cold temperatures, the president tweeted out that “Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!” Regardless of what happens with the U.S. and the climate accord, many elected officials have decided to take things into their own hands, at the local level. While hundreds of mayors have announced their intent to curb greenhouse gas emissions, 45 American mayors have actually signed their own climate agreement.

A group of 21 teens from Oregon, fighting on behalf of our air, could see their day in court this year. The kids sued the federal government for its role in climate change back in 2015, during Obama’s presidency. The suit faced a potential end in early December, when the Trump administration challenged its legitimacy in an appeals court. The judges expressed skepticism at the Justice Department’s reasoning for wanting to stop the suit from moving to trial this month.

The EPA, facing a proposed 30 percent cut to its budget, says it plans to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. Under the plan, power plants have to make major reductions to their greenhouse gas emissions. The agency says it would like public input for a replacement plan.

As director of the EPA, Scott Pruitt has taken steps to stop or delay rules that limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, cars and landfills. Most of the actions were backed by leaders in the oil and gas industries and auto manufacturers.

2. PUBLIC LANDS AT RISK

Bears Ears National Monument

Last year, President Trump rolled back federal protections on two million acres of land in Utah. This was the largest cut to national monuments in history, shrinking Bears Ears by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by 39 percent. The administration is not done yet – Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended cuts at four other national monuments at land and sea. The cuts are aimed at increasing the use of natural resources, like timber harvesting, water rights, commercial fishing, mining and drilling.

Speaking of oil, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the administration repealed fracking regulations on public lands. Trump says it will cut costs for oil and gas companies trying to get in compliance. Critics say it will put our protected land sanctuaries at risk of environmental ruin.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Arctic National Wildlife is at risk of being developed by oil and gas companies. While Trump and Congress have expressed this desire, the administration has already given the go ahead for an Italian-based drilling project in nearby Arctic waters.

 

While the fate of our public lands hangs in the balance, Zinke has proposed a dramatic increase in the entrance fees to our national parks. The proposal affects 17 of the country’s most popular national parks, and during the peak season, would up the cost per car from $25 to $70. The National Park Service says the change

Acadia National Park

could help a $12 billion backlog on road maintenance, but critics worry that it’s just another attempt at making our public lands run more as commercial enterprises than public resources.

3. WOMEN IN POLITICAL POWER

While Trump’s administration has made unprecedented moves against our environment, statistics show that more women than ever before will be running for a seat in the U.S. Congress this year. 2017 brought a heightened awareness when it comes to women’s issues, from the Women’s March at its start, to a threat to reproductive rights and a nationwide crusade to fight sexual harassment. The wave of change, it would appear, is convincing women to run for public office, with experts viewing the trend as a direct retaliation to Trump’s presidency. EMILY’s List recruits women to run. The resource funds campaigns for viable pro-choice, Democratic female candidates. Check out their roster on their website.

It would appear our views on women in political power vary based on whether you’re male or female. In May 2016, the Pew Research Center released its findings from a survey breaking down Americans’ views on female political leaders, by gender. According to the survey, women said men had an easier path to getting elected. When asked why more women don’t hold political office, almost half of women surveyed said it’s because women are held to higher standards than men, compared with 28 percent of men who said so.

No matter where you stand, know that your representatives and senators in Congress have significant sway in what’s happening in your home state. Make sure you’re informed before you vote, and make sure others are, too. Currently, women comprise just 19.6 percent of our Congress, yet they make up half the U.S. population. Be watching, and speak up – 2018 could be the year that number becomes more reflective of its actual constituency.