Trump Shifts Tone on Climate Change, Environmentalists Scoff

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November 23, 2016

The Deepwater Wind LLC project off the coast of Rhode Island, the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. Credit: Deepwater Wind

By Joe Ryan

(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump, who called climate change a hoax during his campaign and vowed to pull out of the Paris accord, now says global warming might be real after all.

The Republican president-elect told the New York Times Tuesday that perhaps humans are to blame for the rising temperatures that are melting polar ice caps and have been linked to extreme weather around the world.

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“I think there is some connectivity. There is some, something. It depends on how much,” Trump said, according to a transcript of his meeting with the New York Times. He also said he’s keeping an “open mind” on the Paris climate accord.

The comments represent an abrupt shift for Trump. The head of his Environmental Protection Agency transition team, Myron Ebell, has questioned the scientific evidence behind global warming. The president-elect’s previous statements on climate change, which include saying that the concept was “ created” by the Chinese, have put him at odds with most world leaders and an overwhelming majority of scientists.

At a United Nations climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco, that concluded last week, officials from around the globe warned that Trump could isolate the U.S. by backing out the Paris accord. China has vowed to take over as the world’s environmental leader if the U.S. walks away from the effort under Trump.

Skeptical Reaction

The reaction from environmentalists to Trump’s apparent about-face ranged from guarded optimism to outright skepticism.

“We hope the president-elect appreciates the stakes for the country in fighting this global scourge, the opportunity to build on U.S. climate leadership and the urgency of creating good-paying American jobs in the global transition to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future,” Bob Deans, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, was less generous, saying “talk is cheap.”

“Trump is kidding nobody on climate as he simultaneously stacks his transition team and cabinet with climate-science deniers and the dirtiest hacks the fossil-fuel industry can offer,” Brune said in a statement. “Prove it, President-elect. The world is watching.”

‘All the Birds’

While Trump may have softened his stance on climate change, he reiterated his view on wind power. Trump has long tried to block an offshore wind farm from being built within view of one of his golf resorts in Scotland. On Tuesday, he repeated his contention that wind farms are uneconomical and hazardous to birds.

“They kill all the birds,” Trump told the New York Times. “I’ve been saying the same thing for years about you know, the wind industry. I wouldn’t want to subsidize it.”

© 2016 Bloomberg L.P

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