The chance that the nation's environmental protection infrastructure will be spared major setbacks at the hands of President Donald Trump may hinge on temperament. Our new president revels in unpredictability that often enables him to hog the public spotlight.
Trump is particularly fond of issuing surprise policy pronouncements that throw friend and foe alike into a tizzy and make him the "talk of the town".
What could foster this cherished label more than to drop his opposition to President Obama's climate change initiatives and then do him one better?
It is true that on its face, such a turnabout on an environmental threat Trump has so repeatedly demeaned seems a bit of a stretch.
Yet upon reflection, there is a glimmer of hope that our new president will abruptly switch course. Although a professed conservative, he has displayed no rigid commitment to a political ideology in his formulation of policy. Indeed, years ago during the tenure of President Bill Clinton, Trump was an unapologetic liberal Democrat. He proceeded to join his daughter Ivanka in signing a petition calling for action to curb global warming. In that spirit, environmentalists hope that Ivanka will influence her father to deal aggressively with the planet's ecological plight. Mother of three young children, Ivanka has exhibited sensitivity to such environmental matters, going so far as to set up a meeting between global warming crusader Al Gore and her father.
Provided environmentalists are reading her correctly, Ivanka's access to the president will take on added significance. Consider that Trump reportedly tends to be most influenced by the last person to whom he talks before making a decision (many of which seem to be of the snap genre).
Then there is this. Trump frequently appears to not just want to vanquish his adversaries but to figuratively bury them. Obama could well qualify as a target for Trump's congenital vindictiveness despite the amicable White House transition of executive power. Imagine the rush that Trump would experience if he reversed field on climate change and one-upped Obama on the latter's signature environmental legacy.
Other incentives could galvanize Trump's contrarian change of heart. He is not one to be oblivious to the latest polls showing overwhelming public concern about climate change. He also might eventually be moved by the disclosure that 2016 was just the latest in a disquieting succession of the hottest years on record.
But temperament would be the main catalyst for a dramatic about-face. Here's hoping hubris works in positive ways.