Of all the damage that Donald Trump has managed to do in the last four years, the most serious is his assault on the environment. Aside from pulling his country out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, he has rolled back environmental regulations in the U.S. at a breakneck pace—over 100 rollbacks completed or in the works. 

In the past week alone, his administration has finalized a plan to open up part of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development and the Environmental Protection Agency lifted a regulation that was intended to rein in methane leaks at oil and gas wells. Not a bad week at all for the climate change deniers.

A question uppermost in the minds of all rational people must be whether or not the damage can be undone. According to The New York Times newsletter “Climate Fwd:”1 the answer is yes.

As the newsletter points out, many of the rollbacks are already being challenged by various states and environmental groups. The court process is slow, but if Biden wins the presidency and his colleagues take Congress, both odds-on possibilities, the Democrats could exploit the Congressional Review Act which allows any regulation to be overturned by a vote in Congress within 60 days. Apparently dozens of late-term Trump initiatives are amenable to this fate. And then, of course, there are executive orders, much used by Trump. 

As for the Paris agreement, nations are not allowed to formally withdraw until four years after the pact took effect. That date is, coincidentally, November 4th, 2020, the day after the U.S. election. A signatory that withdraws can apply for readmission and be back in within 30 days. And Joe Biden has pledged to do exactly that.

So much of what has been lost can be regained, in some cases quickly. All depends on Biden and the Democrats winning in November.

And if they lose? Another four years of Trumpian assault on the environment? Another 100 regulations abandoned? In a world that may already be sinking into irreversible global warming, one shudders at the thought.

1. Subscribe to the New York Times climate newsletter, “Climate Fwd:,” for free here.

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