Trump’s Climate Views: Combative, Conflicting and Confusing

Source: By JOHN SCHWARTZ, New York Times • Posted: Monday, March 13, 2017

Clockwise from top left: Coal stacked at the base of coal loaders along the Ohio River in Ceredo, W.Va., and wind turbines east of Wasco, Ore. Vintage cars near Morgan Hill, Calif., were burned by wildfires, believed to be becoming more frequent as a result of increases in droughts. And an usually high spring tide washed over Highway 80, the only road to the northernmost barrier island in Georgia. Clockwise from top left: Robert Galbraith/Reuters; Jamie Francis, via The Oregonian, via Associated Press; Noah Berger, via Associated Press; Stephen B. Morton for The New York Times

Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, drew criticism on Thursday for saying that carbon dioxide was not a primary contributor to global warming, contradicting years of established science. But his boss, President Trump, has similarly raised doubts about the cause of global warming and has said a great deal more on the subject — as part of an argument, an applause line, a punch line or an insult.

But what do his many comments reveal about his actual thinking? In 2009, he joined some 50 business leaders in signing a full-page advertisement in The New York Times calling for “meaningful and effective measures to combat climate change.” More recently he has referred to climate change as a hoax or a joke.

Wind turbines are clearly one of Mr. Trump’s favorite things to hate. This tweet is typical of more than 100 from Mr. Trump attacking wind farms as hideous bird slaughterers; he has claimed they kill more than a million birds a year. He also fought efforts in Scotland to build a “really ugly wind farm” offshore from the Trump International Golf Links Scotland resort in Aberdeen.

Whatever the value of his aesthetic argument, his facts are wrong: Wind turbines kill far fewer than a million birds a year — and far fewer than are killed by cats or in collisions with buildings.

Mr. Trump delivered his best-known comment on climate change in this 2012 tweet, one that he would alternately call a joke and a serious remark in later interviews. On June 28, 2015, he told Jake Tapper of CNN that “I’m being sarcastic,” but then said, “It’s a little bit serious.” He called the comment a joke on “Fox and Friends” on Jan. 18, 2016, adding, “But this is done for the benefit of China.”He also has repeatedly referred to climate change as a hoax (at a Dec. 20, 2015, rally in Hilton Head, S.C., he said, “a lot of it’s a hoax, it’s a hoax”) or worse. On Sept. 26, 2016, in the first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton said, “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.” He shot back, “I did not — I do not say that.”

Clinton: Trump called climate change a Chinese hoax Video by CNN

Here (and many other times) Mr. Trump sounds a popular conservative theme: Politicians and scientists rebranded “global warming” because of cold temperatures. Not really. Both terms are still in use, but as NASA stated in 2008, “climate change” has become the preferred term on its website because “temperature change itself isn’t the most severe effect of changing climate,” and cited shifting weather patterns and rising sea levels.

A local cold snap does not reverse the long-term trend that made the earth reach its highest temperature on record in 2016 — the third straight year the record was broken. The reference to “$ flow” is another much-used, though debunked, argument among those who question climate science — that climate scientists fraudulently go along with the climate consensus to get rich on federal research funds.

Mr. Trump’s organization, by the way, used the term “global warming and its effects” when applying for a permit to build protection against coastal erosion for his golf course in Ireland.

Renewable energy is an expensive sop for the ‘tree-huggers.’

To begin with, the whole push for renewable energy is being driven by the wrong motivation, the mistaken belief that global climate change is being caused by carbon emissions. If you don’t buy that — and I don’t — then what we have is really just an expensive way of making the tree-huggers feel good about themselves.

The most popular source of green energy is solar panels. They work, but they don’t make economic sense. They don’t provide enough energy savings to cover the cost of installing and using them. They are the most highly subsidized form of green energy in America.

This passage from Mr. Trump’s 2015 book, “Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again,” lays out the core of his argument against renewable energy. Yet mountains of scientific evidence show that climate change is real and caused largely by greenhouse gas emissions. Also, the cost of renewable energy has plummeted, sometimes beating fossil fuels on price. The International Energy Agency says that renewable sources have surpassed coal as the largest provider of global energy capacity. Mr. Trump’s arguments about subsidies, often used by opponents of renewable energy, also tend to ignore subsidies received by fossil fuel industries.

Climate change is a threat? What a joke.

You know, Obama thinks our biggest problem is global warming, can you believe this? No, it’s true. I heard it and I said: “No, no. That’s a joke. Who told that joke? That sounds very — was that Jimmy Fallon? (LAUGHTER)

Was that Jimmy Kimmel? Who told that joke? That’s very — no, no. That’s not a joke. And then I went and he really meant it. Our biggest problems is global warming of the nuclear variety, and we better be damn careful.


We better be damn careful. We better be very, very careful.

In his campaign speech in Carmel, Ind., on May 2, 2016, Mr. Trump touched on a favorite trope, using references to climate change as a way to ridicule the Obama administration. Mr. Obama frequently referred to climate change as the world’s greatest long-term threat, pointing to rising seas, dangerous droughts and floods, and resulting political instability.

Coal will be king again.

We’re going to bring back the coal industry, save the coal industry . . . I love those people.

At an energy conference in Bismarck, N.D., on May 26, 2016, Mr. Trump laid out his energy plan in its fullest form. He pledged to walk away from America’s commitment to the Paris climate deal and promised to slash “regulations that shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants and block the construction of new ones.”

“How stupid is that?” he said of such rules. This reliable stump-speech theme helped him in struggling coal states like West Virginia. Yet coal’s decline is largely a result of market forces — cheap natural gas and oil, caused in large part by the fracking boom — not restrictive regulations. And bringing coal back will be a hard promise to keep.

After the election, he suggests an ‘open mind’ on climate.

I think there is some connectivity. There is some, something. It depends on how much. It also depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies. You have to understand, our companies are noncompetitive right now.

In a wide-ranging interview at The New York Times on Nov. 22, 2016, Mr. Trump seemed to offer more a moderate view on climate change: “I have an open mind to it.” That shift was be echoed in coming months by his nominees to cabinet posts. The former Texas governor Rick Perry, during his confirmation hearing for energy secretary, disavowed earlier statements that included calling climate change “one contrived phony mess.” Now, he said, “I believe the climate is changing,” and “I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by man-made activity.” The seemingly softer position enormously understates the degree of scientific certainty about climate change, and could set up arguments for limiting action to fight it.

Mr. Trump also took a moment in the interview to once again attack wind power on aesthetic and bird-killing grounds, but added, “There’s a place for them.”