Climate Policy in the New Presidency: Initial Reflections

Postyn Smith ’15, Sustainability Coordinator at the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives, offers pictures and initial reflections on the changing administration gleaned from the winter study travel course that he co-taught this year with his father, Professor Mark Smith of Colorado College. “Climate Policy in the New Presidency” took ten Williams students to Washington D.C. to examine four critical aspects of climate policy: (1) domestic mitigation policy; (2) U.S. policy in an international context; (3) energy policy — renewables and conservation; and (4) the integration of climate science into climate policy.
We, like many others in this country, searched for insights about climate change policy under the new administration. While many people we met with expressed a level of optimism in Trump’s uncertainty about climate, optimism can be intoxicating. Senator Chris Murphy ’96 strongly felt that Trump’s climate stance is clear. Trump’s meetings with climate celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore distract from his actions. Rex Tillerson, the President Elect’s choice for Secretary of State, represents Big Oil. Although it takes a few years for a country to pull out of the Paris Agreement, it only takes one year for a nation to withdraw from the underlying UNFCCC process. This withdrawal would be catastrophic for US foreign policy.
Outside the Supreme Court before listening to oral arguments
Brief visit to the outside of the Capitol
Meeting with staffers for Senator Murkowski on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Meeting with Charley Ebinger ’70 and Jen Potvin ’11 at Brookings
Meeting at WRI with Colin McCormick ’95 focus on autonomous/electric vehicles & Ani Dasgupta’s P’20 Sustainable Cities team
Meeting with Senator Murphy ’96 to discuss climate change and foreign relations