Trump skeptical of his own climate skepticism

Source: Jennifer Yachnin, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has spent years characterizing climate change as a “hoax” and “bullshit” — but in a combative presidential debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton last night, he rejected the idea that he has laid blame for global warming on the Chinese.

The presidential contenders met for a 90-minute debate at Hofstra University in New York, an argumentative session that covered Trump’s failure to release his federal income tax forms, Clinton’s use of a private email server while at the State Department, race relations and economic policy from both nominees.

Clinton raised Trump’s skepticism of climate science in the debate’s opening question, as she detailed her plans for recreating manufacturing jobs in the United States.

“We will have 10 million more new jobs, because we will be making investments where we can grow the economy. Take clean energy. Some country is going to be the clean energy superpower of the 21st century,” Clinton said. “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real.

Trump interjected from his podium: “I did not. I did not. I do not say that.”

Clinton continued: “I think science is real.” Trump repeated: “I do not say that.”

But Trump has often assailed climate change and global warming on his Twitter feed, criticizing a shift in language on the subject, as well as questioning the existence of climate change.

“Snowing in Texas and Louisiana, record setting freezing temperatures throughout the country and beyond. Global warming is an expensive hoax!” Trump wrote in January 2014.

Later that month he reiterated on Twitter: “Give me clean, beautiful and healthy air — not the same old climate change (global warming) bullshit! I am tired of hearing this nonsense.”

In November 2012, Trump similarly laid out his theory that efforts to address climate change are little more than an attempt to stifle American businesses with regulations to reduce greenhouse gases.

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

But in early 2016 in an interview on Fox, Trump asserted that his former comments were a “joke,” while still asserting efforts to address climate change are damaging to the nation’s manufacturers.

“I think the climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money. I know much about climate change,” Trump said, according to a transcript of “Fox & Friends.”

He later continued: “But this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change. They burn everything you could burn; they couldn’t care less. … Their standards are nothing. But they — in the meantime, they can undercut us on price. So it’s very hard on our business.”

Later during the debate, Trump dismissed the potential fallout from climate change as the candidates debated the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

“The single greatest problem the world has is nuclear armament, nuclear weapons. Not global warming like you think and your president thinks,” Trump said, in an apparent reference to President Obama.

Environmentalists seized on what they characterized as Trump’s about-face last night, criticizing the Republican nominee for his attempt to “dodge” his previous statements.

“Clinton is proposing climate action, while Trump is just talking climate crazy. Climate denial is not a viable political position for any candidate trying to win a national election,” Action spokesman Jamie Henn said in a statement.

Similarly, LCV National Campaigns Director Clay Schroers said: “We just saw Hillary lead the evening talking about clean energy jobs and the need to meet the challenge of climate change head-on — while Trump outright lied. He brazenly lied to the American people, saying that he never claimed climate change was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese — when it is well documented that he did so on his very own twitter feed.”

Hitting back with Solyndra

During the debate over job growth, Clinton also reiterated her proposal to shift 50 percent of the nation’s energy production to renewable sources by 2030, install half a billion new solar panels by the end of her first term in office.

“We can deploy a half a billion more solar panels. We can have enough clean energy to power every home. We can build a new modern electric grid. That’s a lot of jobs; that’s a lot of new economic activity,” Clinton said.

Trump responded by slamming the California solar manufacturer Solyndra, which declared bankruptcy in 2011 after receiving a loan-guarantee from the Department of Energy, although he did not use the company’s name.

“She talks about solar panels. We invested in a solar company, our country. That was a disaster. They lost plenty of money on that one,” Trump said. “Now, look, I’m a great believer in all forms of energy, but we’re putting a lot of people out of work. Our energy policies are a disaster. Our country is losing so much in terms of energy, in terms of paying off our debt.”

Trump did not touch on his own energy policy, but he has promoted increased domestic production of oil, gas and coal, including on public lands.

He also briefly touched on his proposal to roll back regulations like the Clean Power Plan, although he did not offer specifics.

“The thing that people like the most is that I’m cutting regulations,” Trump said.

The candidates did not field any specific questions on climate or energy policy during the session, echoing past presidential debates.

Clinton and Trump are scheduled to meet next Oct. 9 in St. Louis. The vice presidential nominees will debate in Farmville, Va., on Oct. 4 when Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) face off.