Trump EPA cuts life-saving clean cookstove program because it mentions climate change

How many people will die because Trump appointees hate anything climate related?

Indoor Air Pollution from cooking, Ethiopia. CREDIT: Verena Brinkmann for GIZ, via Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves
Indoor Air Pollution from cooking, Ethiopia. CREDIT: Verena Brinkmann for GIZ, via Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

President Donald Trump’s political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency are killing grants and awards that mention “climate change,” no matter how effective the initiatives might be in cutting costs, creating jobs, and saving lives.

Under Administrator Scott Pruitt, who rejects the scientific consensus on climate change, the EPA has taken the unprecedented step of “putting a political operative in charge of vetting” hundreds of millions of dollars in annual EPA grants, the Washington Post reported Monday. That operative is John Konkus, “a former Trump campaign aide with little environmental policy experience.”

Some of EPA’s choices seem petty and capricious — like killing a $20,000 grant to help train Flint, Michigan residents, who are still dealing with a prolonged lead contamination crisis, to deal with bedbugs.

But “Konkus has told staff that he is on the lookout for ‘the double C-word’ — climate change,” the Post reports. Here is where things get both ridiculous and tragic: “Two of the awards the EPA’s leadership rescinded… supported the deployment of clean cookstoves in the developing world.”

Developing clean cookstoves is one of the most cost-effective ways to save lives globally, while simultaneously generating American jobs and improving our national security. As the New York Times explained back in 2010:

Nearly three billion people in the developing world cook their meals on primitive indoor stoves fueled by crop waste, wood, coal and dung. Every year, according to the United Nations, smoke from these stoves kills 1.9 million people, mostly women and children, from lung and heart diseases and low birth weight.

This indoor pollution is such a global blight, that the EPA’s 15-year bipartisan effort to address it started with a George W. Bush administration program, the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air. It grew into an international private-public partnership, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC), which has leveraged considerable public and private sector funding, creating jobs for U.S. companies that sell stoves and related gear, including Cummins Engine of Indiana.

Bush EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman told the Post that this effort simultaneously helped fight pollution that “affects all of us” (carbon pollution), and “it was also good for human health in those countries, which we wanted to have stable for national security.”  

Also, as Radha Muthiah, CEO of GACC said in a statement, the bipartisan program’s efforts “benefit Americans directly” and “help drive increased investment from the private sector and other partners, leading to strong impacts across health, the environment and women’s and girls’ empowerment.”

But the program has the phrase “climate change” in it. As the Times noted in 2010, “the stoves also contribute to global warming as a result of the millions of tons of soot they spew into the atmosphere and the deforestation caused by cutting down trees to fuel them.”

EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told the Post that the agency was cancelling awards to international groups that aren’t “providing results for American taxpayers.”

In reality, the Trump administration is eliminating funding that creates U.S. jobs while benefiting the health of millions of poor people around the globe — simply because those efforts happen to also reduce global carbon pollution.

“It’s a cutting-edge solution to one of the world’s oldest challenges, it’s working, and there is a lot still to be done,” explains Muthiah. Hopefully, other public and private groups will fill the gap left by Trump’s heartless and mindless appointees.