Big Coal wants Trump to sabotage the Paris climate deal from the inside

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management website pays homage to coal.

Screenshot of BLM website banner photo on April 6, 2017.
Screenshot of BLM website banner photo on April 6, 2017.

The good news: The CEO of a major U.S. coal company wrote a letter to President Donald Trump on Thursday urging him to stick with the Paris climate deal.

The bad news: Cloud Peak Energy chief Colin Marshall wants Trump to weaken the deal to “ensure that fossil energy remains a driver of global prosperity.”

The ugly news: The same day, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) made its lead website image a sunless wall of coal (above), replacing this beautiful sunny image of a father and son camping (below) and highlighting the new administration’s commitment to fossil fuels.

Screenshot of BLM website banner photo on April 5.
Screenshot of BLM website banner photo on April 5.

The Paris agreement, the world’s last best hope for preserving a livable climate, is bad news for coal. In December 2015, over 190 nations unanimously agreed in Paris to reduce carbon pollution with the goal of keeping global warming “well below 2°C”(3.6°F) in order to avoid multiple, simultaneous ever-worsening catastrophic climate impacts.

Analysis in the journal Nature earlier that year found that, to achieve this goal, “over 80 percent of current coal reserves should remain unused from 2010 to 2050.”

Proponents of coal suggest using technology for capturing carbon pollution from coal plants. Marshall says the technology — or something like it — is already here. “Technology currently exists that can address climate concerns while allowing us to benefit from reliable abundant natural resources like coal,” he writes. He also requests funding for carbon sequestration research.

But so-called “clean coal” is a difficult and expensive prospect that neither the coal industry nor Congressional Republicans have ever been willing to make big investments in.

In the meantime, Marshall wants Trump to weaken the U.S. pledge to reduce carbon pollution between 26 and 28 percent by 2025, versus 2005 levels. That target is “equivalent to 14–17 percent below 1990 levels of GHG emissions,” ClimateTracker website explains.

The U.S. target is already quite weak. Compare it to the European Union’s target, which is “at least 40 percent domestic greenhouse gas emissions reductions below 1990 levels by 2030.”

U.S. climate goals needs to be strengthened, not weakened.

Staying in Paris to undermine the climate accord would be a profoundly cynical move — especially given Trump’s plan to gut the EPA, undo carbon pollution standards for power plants, roll-back fuel economy standards for cars, and promote fossil fuels over cheaper clean energy.

The BLM website change is just one more in a long list of signs that the Trump administration is embracing fossil fuels.

A Bureau spokesperson told the AP that the change was part of a new website design and would not be permanent. “As part of the BLM’s transition to a new website design, we will be regularly rotating the banner with photos that reflect the many uses our public lands have to offer.”

They indicated that on Friday “the second photo in our rotation will be posted, reflecting recreation on public lands.”

As of noon on Friday, the photo hadn’t changed.

It’s worth recording — before it gets replaced— that the BLM says on its website that its “mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”

Screenshot of BLM website, April 7, 2017
Screenshot of BLM website, April 7, 2017

Boosting coal use at home and undermining the Paris climate deal abroad is completely incompatible with this mission. In fact, it would ruin America’s public lands — indeed all of America — for the next 50 generations.