Trump's Legacy: Climate Change

The Biden administration and effects of time will erase some of the consequences of the Trump administration's methodical dismantling of the nation's environmental regulation. But climate change will be around longer than any of it.

2 minute read

November 23, 2020, 5:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Chicaho, Illinois

Antwon Mc / Shutterstock

"[T]he damage done by the greenhouse gas pollution unleashed by President Trump’s rollbacks may prove to be one of the most profound legacies of his single term," according to an article by Carol Davenport.

President-elect is likely to spend much of the next four years undoing the sweeping environmental regulation rollbacks implement during the Trump administration, but not before a significant amount of emissions, pollution, and irreversible marks are left on the country's public lands.

The legacy of those changes will outlive the policies, but on varying timelines, depending on the kind of pollution in question," according to Davenport.

Pollutants like industrial soot and chemicals can have lasting health effects, especially in minority communities where they are often concentrated. But air quality and water clarity can be restored once emissions are put back under control.

That is not true for the global climate. Greenhouse pollution accumulates in the atmosphere, so the heat-trapping gases emitted as a result of loosened regulations will remain for decades, regardless of changes in policy.

A study released in September quantified the amount of emissions enabled by the Trump administration's anti-regulatory actions. In total, the Trump administration's environmental rollbacks will emit an additional 1.8 billion metric tons of climate emissions equivalent to carbon dioxide by 2035.

But as Davenport points out, these are emissions are coming at a critical movement.

"Over the past four years, the global level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere crossed a long-feared threshold of atmospheric concentration. Now, many of the most damaging effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, deadlier storms, and more devastating heat, droughts and wildfires, are irreversible."

Monday, November 9, 2020 in The New York Times

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Street scene in Greenwich Village, New York City with people walking through busy intersection and new WTC tower in background.

Planning for Accessibility: Proximity is More Important than Mobility

Accessibility-based planning minimizes the distance that people must travel to reach desired services and activities. Measured this way, increased density can provide more total benefits than increased speeds.

April 14, 2024 - Todd Litman

Wood-frame two-story rowhouses under construction.

Fair Housing Cannot Take a Back Seat to ‘Build, Baby, Build’

If we overlook fair housing principles in the plan to build US housing back better, we risk ending up right back where we started.

April 11, 2024 - James Jennings

"No 710" lawn sign on green lawn.

LA Metro Board Approves New 710 Freeway Plan

The newest plan for the 710 corridor claims it will not displace any residents.

3 hours ago - Streetsblog LA

Close-up of row of electric cars plugged into chargers at outdoor station.

Austin’s Proposed EV Charging Rules Regulate Station Locations, Size

City planners say the new rules would ensure an efficient distribution of charging infrastructure across the city and prevent an overconcentration in residential areas.

4 hours ago - Austin Monitor

Green hills with orange California poppies in bloom in foreground in Chino Hills State Park, California.

Making California State Parks More Climate-Resilient

A recently released report offers recommendations for keeping state parks healthy and robust, including acquiring additional land for conservation and recreation.

5 hours ago - Spectrum News 1

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.