Donald Trump doesn’t think climate change is happening — he apparently doesn’t go outside much these days, unless he’s in Florida — and he doesn’t think air and water pollution, the proliferation of plastic waste, or energy conservation are pressing issues.
He delights in rolling back half a century’s worth of environmental regulations, he takes pleasure in undoing what others — particularly Barack Obama — worked so hard to do to limit and reverse damage to nature and to Americans’ health and well-being.
He may not know it, but he’s swimming against the tide. The little inflated life ring around his tummy is somehow keeping him afloat, the little water wings on his arms are keeping him paddling. But more and more Americans are moving in the opposite direction.
Across the country, everyday people, organized groups and enlightened businesses are taking steps to mitigate and reverse the activities that are turning Earth into a disaster movie.
Many states have adopted wide-ranging climate laws of their own. California, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, New York and Washington have set goals to get 100 percent of their electricity from wind, solar, geothermal or nuclear sources by 2050.
These are all states with Democratic legislatures, but among the 15 governors who have declared support for completely clean energy is Maryland’s Larry Hogan (R). He has allowed a new state law to take effect that would require half of Maryland’s energy to come from clean sources by 2030. He has also expressed support for expanding the mandate to 100 percent by 2040.
Just up the Atlantic coast, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced two weeks ago regulations that will require builders to consider the impact of climate change, including rising sea levels, in order to get government approval for projects.
With 130 miles of Atlantic coastline, New Jersey is literally on the front line of the sea-level battle. A 2019 study by Rutgers shows those levels rising more than twice as fast as the global rate — 1.5 feet since 1911, compared with the worldwide mean of .6 feet. And nearly the same is happening in Maryland, studies show. Coastline sea levels in the Free State are forecast to rise an additional 1.4 feet by 2050 and 3.7 feet by 2100.
Maryland is also at the forefront of the growing effort to control plastic pollution. Last year, the General Assembly banned foam food and beverage containers, a threat to fish and other marine life. It was a movement driven, in part, by Baltimore Beyond Plastic, a high school group that first succeeded in persuading the city’s schools to give up polystyrene containers, then moved on to convince the entire city to do the same.
Still on a roll, the youth group next helped persuade the Baltimore City Council to pass an ordinance banning retailers from giving customers plastic bags, beginning next year. Stores will have to charge 5 cents for any alternative bag they provide, including ones made of paper. The goal is to encourage consumers to provide their own, reusable bags.
This year, the Maryland Legislature is tackling the Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act, a bill with more than 40 sponsors that would prohibit stores from using plastic bags for retail sales. The proposal, along with a companion bill in the state Senate, would also set up a Single-Use Products Workgroup to make recommendations on limiting plastic cups, straws, utensils and similar products.
Maine also adopted a foam packaging ban last year, and New York is considering a ban this year.
Dart Container, the heavyweight in producing plastic and foam containers, isn’t running up the white flag in the battle. But in response to public pressure, it has launched an effort to find ways to recycle its single-use products and is experimenting with alternative materials.
Other industries across the country are also seeing the future far more clearly than the president. Energy producers continue to move away from fossil fuels, shutting down aging coal-fired generating plants and moving toward renewable sources.
Automakers are pushing ahead with electric vehicles — and finding success in the market. Tesla’s stock market value is now more than $100 billion, second among carmakers only to Toyota’s $200 billion worth.
So we’re seeing more than a “grassroots” trend here. Some heavy hitters are in the game.
No matter. Donald Trump is unlikely to change course. In his mind, he doesn’t make mistakes. The only thing that will bring him around is saltwater lapping at the doors of Mar-a-Lago. And even then, he may see nothing but a hoax.