Bioethics News

Dear Mr. Trump

Climate policy puts lives in your hands


Travis N. Rieder, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics


President-elect Donald Trump has been unclear so far on how many of his campaign pledges he actually intends to see through. Hopeful Democrats and moderates have clung to this uncertainty as reason to hope that a Trump presidency wouldn’t be as bad as they feared.


And on climate change, Trump has sent some mixed signals. He famously called global warming fake in a 2012 tweet. But in an interview with The New York Times on Nov. 22, he said that he has an “open mind” concerning a global climate accord, and that there is “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change.


As an ethicist who looks at issues around climate change, I’d like to take Trump at his word, and make the moral case that an open-minded president would not risk becoming responsible for the human suffering his proposed climate policies will cause.


Climate policy and consequences


During the campaign, candidate Trump said that he would “cancel” the Paris Agreement, a deal signed by most of the world’s countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As president-elect, he has said his administration will massively invest in coal and fossil fuels and cancel financial commitments to the UN for climate programs. These steps echo similar vows he made as a candidate, such as bringing back the coal industry and building the Keystone XL oil pipeline.


Since the election, there has been significant analysis regarding how much of this agenda he can do, and just how bad it would be for emissions.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.