Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
A regional public media collaboration serving the Rocky Mountain States of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Trump Administration Uses Inevitability of Climate Change To Burn More Fossil Fuels

Florian Plag

In recent years, President Trump has dismissed climate change as a hoax.

“I think it’s a big scam for a lot of people to make a lot of money,” he said on Fox News in 2015.

But a recent report by the U.S. Department of Transportation predicts global temperature will rise seven degrees by 2100. That’s catastrophic.

In the Mountain West, climate change is expected to decrease snowpacks, warm up streams and make wildfires more severe.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s finding marks a rare moment when the Trump administration has acknowledged anthropogenic climate change. It was buried deep in the bowels of an environmental impact statement on Trump’s rollback of vehicle emissions standards.

The report’s authors said those Obama-era standards only cut carbon emissions by half a percent. So they concluded it doesn’t really matter if we get rid of them.

“It’s really disheartening,” Cathy Whitlock, lead author of Montana’s first ever climate assessment, said. “It doesn’t make sense to take measures that are going to worsen that trend. We need to think about ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not steps that are going to increase them.”

Whitlock said it’s a mistake to believe the little things – like half-a-percent – don’t count.

“I think climate change is local and we all need to do our part to find solutions,” she said.

Montana state climatologist Kelsey Jencso agrees.

“It is alarming to me to hear that the U.S. will not make changes simply because politicians feel that our emissions and proactive changes to them are only a drop in the bucket,” he said. "We are already on a path towards increased warming and extreme weather events by mid-century. However, it can and will get much worse if we continue at a high rate of emissions or even increase emissions as the administration plans."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wrote the report. They were unavailable for comment.  

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2020 Yellowstone Public Radio. To see more, visit Yellowstone Public Radio.

Nate Hegyi is the Utah reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, based at KUER. He covers federal land management agencies, indigenous issues, and the environment. Before arriving in Salt Lake City, Nate worked at Yellowstone Public Radio, Montana Public Radio, and was an intern with NPR's Morning Edition. He received a master's in journalism from the University of Montana.
Nate Hegyi
Nate Hegyi is a reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau based at Yellowstone Public Radio. He earned an M.A. in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism in 2016 and interned at NPR’s Morning Edition in 2014. In a prior life, he toured around the country in a band, lived in Texas for a spell, and once tried unsuccessfully to fly fish. You can reach Nate at
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.