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Trump with coal miner's helmet
Donald Trump models a coal miner’s helmet in Charleston, W.Va., where he received the endorsement of the West Virginia Coal Association. (Credit: Right Side Broadcasting via YouTube)

Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the presidential election opens the way for a profound reversal in environmental policies, even as officials are working on implementing this year’s Paris climate agreement.

During the campaign, Trump repeatedly declared that climate concerns were a hoax, and that he intends to “cancel” U.S. compliance with the pact that was reached in Paris.

The agreement, which officially entered into force just five days ago, currently calls on the United States to reduce carbon emissions by at least 26 percent from its 2005 levels over the next nine years.

This week, officials from more than 200 nations are meeting in Morocco to hash out the details surrounding implementation of the agreement. Officials and activists said they would soldier on despite Trump’s past statements.

“It’s clear that Donald Trump is about to be one of the most powerful people in the world, but even he does not have the power to amend and change the laws of physics, to stop the impact of climate change, to stop the rising sea levels,” Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told reporters in Marrakesh. “He has to acknowledge to reality of climate change. He has a responsibility as president-elect now.”

European officials invited Trump to participate in a summit “at your earliest convenience” to discuss climate change and other shared challenges. “We need all our partners on board,” the European Union’s climate commissioner, Arias Cañete, said in a tweet.

Trump struck a conciliatory tone in his Election Night remarks, but he hasn’t yet signaled that he’d soften his stand against significant cutbacks in carbon emissions. In a statement provided last month to Science Debate, he hinted that it’d be better to devote resources to providing clean water, eliminating diseases such as malaria, and increasing food production and energy production.

The man in charge of the Trump transition team’s working group on environmental issues is Myron Ebell, a policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who’s a harsh critic of policies to combat climate change.

A leading candidate for energy secretary, according to Politico, is Oklahoma billionaire Harold Hamm. He’s the CEO of Continental Resources, one of the nation’s top oil producers. Another oil magnate, Forrest Lucas, is said to be on the short list for interior secretary.

Oil and coal production figure prominently in Trump’s energy policy, and today that provided a lift for fossil-fuel companies while dealing a blow to renewable-energy firms in the stock market. Looking ahead, the Trump administration is more likely to give favorable treatment to projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline.

On other issues relating to science and technology, Trump generally favors reducing government oversight and giving more leeway to the private sector. Here are a few nuggets from past pronouncements:

Health research: The bad news for researchers is that more than a year ago, right-wing radio host Michael Savage told Trump during a call-in show that he wanted to be appointed head of the National Institutes of Health. “You’d get common sense if that were the case, that I can tell you, because I hear so much about the NIH and it’s terrible,” Trump replied. The good news is that one of Trump’s top advisers, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, has said NIH’s budget should be doubled. The unsettling news is that Trump has been quoted as linking vaccinations to autism, a view that runs counter to public-health wisdom.

America’s space effort: Trump and his advisers have emphasized the role of commercial ventures such as SpaceX in space exploration and commerce. “Public-private partnerships should be the foundation of our space efforts,” policy advisers Bob Walker and Peter Navarro said in a Space News op-ed last month. Walker told Space News that he’d put more emphasis on solar-system exploration and less on Earth science. For years, Republicans have been critical of President Barack Obama’s plans to have astronauts study an asteroid by the mid-2020s – and there’s a chance that mission will be de-emphasized in favor of lunar exploration. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Gingrich advocated creating a moon colony by 2020.

Tech innovation: Trump says he’s a supporter of technological innovation, which he calls “one of the great by-products” of free markets. “Though there are increasing demands to curtail spending and to balance the federal budget, we must make the commitment to invest in science, engineering, healthcare and other areas that will make the lives of Americans better, safer and more prosperous,” he told Science Debate. However, most tech industry leaders saw Hillary Clinton as the savvier candidate, and mending relations is likely to pose a huge challenge.

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