Thousands of climate activists turned up the heat against Trump this week as confirmation hearings for the President-elect’s cabinet choices began in the Senate. On Monday, the activist group 350.org rallied thousands of activists across the country to visit their Senators’ offices and express their opposition to Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator, Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy, and Ryan Zilke as Interior Secretary. The group chose the timing of the event carefully, given “many Senators are waiting to hear from their constituents before they choose a side.”
“At least one Senate office reported that Monday’s action was their largest meeting with constituents ever,” reports 350.org. “We made waves in the DC media that Senators read, and in the local news that they listen to when choosing their positions.”
Of the four nominees of most concern to greens, only Tillerson faced questions from the Senate this week. When asked about climate change, Tillerson told Senators that he thinks “the risk of climate change does exist and the consequences of it could be serious enough that actions should be taken” but that he would carry out whatever course of action President Trump chooses.
Meanwhile, 630 American businesses signed a letter released Tuesday by the non-profit group Ceres — which promotes sustainable business practices — urging the Trump administration and Congress to continue chipping away at carbon emissions, investing in renewables and living up to our Paris climate accord commitments. Signers include not only well-known brands like Levi Strauss & Company, Ikea, Patagonia, Adobe, SalesForce, eBay, HP, SolarCity, Symantec and Tesla, but also many family-owned mid-size and small businesses. In aggregate, they represent more than $1 trillion in annual sales and employ nearly 2 million Americans. In the Ceres-crafted letter, they re-affirm a “deep commitment to addressing climate change through the implementation of the historic Paris Climate Agreement” and pledge to do their part in helping the country “realize the Paris Agreement’s commitment of a global economy that limits global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.”
Environmentalists are still left to wonder just how the Trump White House will proceed on climate. The nation is locked into the Paris accord for four years, but that doesn’t mean the Trump administration couldn’t find a way to wiggle out of it — or just ignore it. The last hope of the greens is that Trump’s predilection for pragmatism and his interest in creating more American jobs — combined with private sector leadership and state and local emissions cutting programs — will keep the country on track to meet its Paris commitments regardless of leadership from the federal government or formal participation in international treaties. Cooler heads can and must prevail, whether or not the Trump White House is along for the ride.