Mayor Rahm Emanuel is accusing President Donald Trump of trying to erase, what Al Gore has called the “inconvenient truth” about climate change, and doing his part to recoup that information.
Emanuel has created a new city website titled, “Climate Change is Real.” It resurrects information about decades of research on the impact of climate change that, the mayor claims was “unceremoniously removed” from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s own Climate Change website on April 29.
“The Trump administration can attempt to erase decades of work from scientists and federal employees on the reality of climate change, but burying your head in the sand doesn’t erase the problem,” Emanuel was quoted as saying in a press release.
“We are going to ensure Chicago’s residents remain well-informed about the effects of climate change. And I encourage cities, academic institutions and others to…follow suit to ensure the important information does not disappear.”
Emanuel worked as a brash young political operative under former President Bill Clinton. The mayor was one of vanquished Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s earliest supporters.
Since the election, the mayor and Trump have sparred over everything from Trump’s frequent pot-shots about Chicago crime and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to review and retreat from police reform agreements nationwide to Trump’s proposed travel ban and his threat to cut off funding to sanctuary cities.
Two months ago, environmental policy became a new front in the ongoing political battle.
Emanuel warned of the “devastating” environmental impact of Trump’s proposal to gut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
After hosting mayors and other representatives from 17 cities in 11 different countries at an Urban Waterways Forum in Chicago, Emanuel argued that the proposal to reduce annual funding from “north of $300 million” to $10 million threatened a return to the ugly days epitomized by his childhood swims in Lake Michigan.
“You’d have to run into the water, dive under the dead fish, hold your breath, swim all the way 20, 30, 40, 50 feet [in a way that] tested your lungs, and then come up past that,” Emanuel recalled.
“Those times where the dead fish just rolled in are over. It shows you that investing in that environmental cleanup has had a tremendous impact. In the same way that, we’re even having a discussion about swimming in a [Chicago] river that used to be dying and has now been reborn.”
A few weeks later, Emanuel joined aldermen and environmental activists in accusing Trump of signing an executive order that amounts to the “single biggest attack on climate action in U.S. history.”
To unshackle coal mining and oil drilling, Trump’s executive order takes aim at a host of environmental protections imposed by former President Barack Obama.
Chief among them is the Clean Power Plan. It requires states to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. Those reductions have helped the U.S. meet its commitments to a global climate change accord reached by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015.
Trump’s order essentially reversed a ban on coal leasing on federal lands. Rules curbing methane emissions from oil and gas production would be reversed. And climate change and carbon emissions policy would no longer have heavy weight when infrastructure permits are issued.
The angry reaction was predictable in a heavily Democratic city that has benefited from the 2012 shutdown of two coal-fired power plants, a cleaner-than-ever Chicago River and an ongoing battle against invasive species in the Great Lakes.
“By denying the reality of climate change and falsely suggesting environmental protections are anti-business, this executive order represents backwards thinking from days gone by,” Emanuel said then.
Last month, the mayor announced that more than 900 government buildings would shift electricity use to “100 percent renewable energy” by 2025.
The ambitious plan contrasted sharply with Trump’s environmental retreat.
The 900 government buildings will make the switch through a variety of strategies.
They include: purchasing “renewable energy credits” by going out to the market to buy a megawatt of solar or wind power; purchasing utility-supplied renewable energy through the Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standard or by installing solar panel or windmills on city buildings or on public property.