I have been reading headlines about President-elect Donald Trump changing his mind on climate change yesterday based on comments he made during an hour-long interview with reporters from the New York Times. If true, it would have been an important change that we would have welcomed.
After reading some articles that claimed Trump “changed his mind on climate change”, “admitted humans have ‘some connectivity’ on climate change”, and so on, I became hopeful about the prospect of him not taking too many actions during his presidency that would bring us further from solutions, like walking away from the Paris agreement or gutting the EPA. It seems now, however, that my hope was premature.
The New York Times recently released the entire transcript of the conversation with Trump, and “Trump changed his mind on climate change” should be the very last thing to come to mind after reading it. “Trump made a bunch of nonsensical statements about climate change” would be more accurate.
I’ll save you from reading the very long transcript – which you can access in full here – and quote only the parts about climate change and energy since it’s only a small fraction of the entire talk, which covered several other subjects.
When asked by Thomas Friedman “are you going to take America out of the world’s lead of confronting climate change?”, Trump said:
“I’m looking at it very closely, Tom. I’ll tell you what. I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully. It’s one issue that’s interesting because there are few things where there’s more division than climate change. You don’t tend to hear this, but there are people on the other side of that issue who are, think, don’t even …”
Are you hopeful yet? He then repeated three times that he has “an open mind” before going on this very open-minded rant:
“You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98. You know, you can make lots of cases for different views. I have a totally open mind.
My uncle was for 35 years a professor at M.I.T. He was a great engineer, scientist. He was a great guy. And he was … a long time ago, he had feelings — this was a long time ago — he had feelings on this subject. It’s a very complex subject. I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know. I know we have, they say they have science on one side but then they also have those horrible emails that were sent between the scientists. Where was that, in Geneva or wherever five years ago? Terrible. Where they got caught, you know, so you see that and you say, what’s this all about. I absolutely have an open mind. I will tell you this: Clean air is vitally important. Clean water, crystal clean water is vitally important. Safety is vitally important.
And you know, you mentioned a lot of the courses. I have some great, great, very successful golf courses. I’ve received so many environmental awards for the way I’ve done, you know. I’ve done a tremendous amount of work where I’ve received tremendous numbers. Sometimes I’ll say I’m actually an environmentalist and people will smile in some cases and other people that know me understand that’s true. Open mind.”
Does that make sense to anyone? He starts off by talking about a very hot day in “1890-something, 98”, and then goes off about his uncle who “had feelings” about climate change. That’s only the start. He then doubts the fact that the science is on the side of climate change, a claim he bases on a few hacked emails from the CRU in 2009 that were used in a smear campaign by climate change deniers before the Copenhagen Climate Conference.
He follows by boasting about winning environmental awards for his golf courses.
Then there was the big headline: “Trump admits humans have ‘some connectivity’ on climate change.”
Before you get your hopes up, here is what Trump said immediately after James Bennet asked, “do you think human activity is or isn’t connected [to climate change]?”:
“I think right now … well, 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.
They’re really largely noncompetitive. About four weeks ago, I started adding a certain little sentence into a lot of my speeches, that we’ve lost 70,000 factories since W. Bush. 70,000. When I first looked at the number, I said: ‘That must be a typo. It can’t be 70, you can’t have 70,000, you wouldn’t think you have 70,000 factories here.’ And it wasn’t a typo, it’s right. We’ve lost 70,000 factories.
We’re not a competitive nation with other nations anymore. We have to make ourselves competitive. We’re not competitive for a lot of reasons.
That’s becoming more and more of the reason. Because a lot of these countries that we do business with, they make deals with our president, or whoever, and then they don’t adhere to the deals, you know that. And it’s much less expensive for their companies to produce products. So I’m going to be studying that very hard, and I think I have a very big voice in it. And I think my voice is listened to, especially by people that don’t believe in it. And we’ll let you know.”
“There is some, something. It depends on how much.” He then goes on about losing factories. That’s progress, I suppose. Or is it? If companies can’t be competitive without having a devastating impact on the environment, are they really competitive at all?
Which brings us to his tough stance against wind energy. Trump has been accused of basing his stance on wind energy on his fight to keep wind turbines away from his golf courses for business reasons. Here is what he had to say about wind energy:
First of all, we don’t make the windmills in the United States. They’re made in Germany and Japan. They’re made out of massive amounts of steel, which goes into the atmosphere, whether it’s in our country or not, it goes into the atmosphere. The windmills kill birds and the windmills need massive subsidies. In other words, we’re subsidizing wind mills all over this country. I mean, for the most part they don’t work. I don’t think they work at all without subsidy, and that bothers me, and they kill all the birds. You go to a windmill, you know in California they have the, what is it? The golden eagle? And they’re like, if you shoot a golden eagle, they go to jail for five years and yet they kill them by, they actually have to get permits that they’re only allowed to kill 30 or something in one year. The windmills are devastating to the bird population, O.K. With that being said, there’s a place for them. But they do need subsidy. So, if I talk negatively. I’ve been saying the same thing for years about you know, the wind industry. I wouldn’t want to subsidize it. Some environmentalists agree with me very much because of all of the things I just said, including the birds, and some don’t. But it’s hard to explain. I don’t care about anything having to do with anything having to do with anything other than the country.
Alright, forget about the bird thing for a second, or the fact that cell towers kill more birds than wind turbines, and take a look at his statement about emissions from steel manufacturing:
They’re made out of massive amounts of steel, which goes into the atmosphere, whether it’s in our country or not, it goes into the atmosphere.
Trump is concerned about the impact on the atmosphere of emissions from steel manufacturing in the process of making wind turbines. How can he possibly reconcile that with his stance on fuel consumption regulations and other fossil fuel emissions?
Now before you comment about how I shouldn’t get political, I want to emphasize that I’m not being political here because there’s simply no politics to be political about. I can’t make out any actual politics about climate change or renewable energy other than the fact that he appears to dislike wind energy – which I can understand up to his comment about the impact of steel production for wind turbines on the atmosphere, which is simply hypocritical.
The goal of this article is just to clear the air after the reports that Trump changed his stance on climate change and to highlight that he actually has no clear politics about it – or, at least, that he is doing a poor job at communicating those politics.