As a candidate, Donald Trump said climate change was a hoax, and made fun of Democrats who ranked it as a top tier threat to national security.
On Thursday, during a speech announcing that the U.S. is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, President Trump managed to do the impossible: Discuss a global warming agreement without ever mentioning whether he believes the problem exists.
There wasn’t a single statement devoted to the reality and seriousness of the issue. Instead, he repeatedly cited his support for a "clean environment," which could mean clean air, clean water, or any number of things other than climate change.
From his diatribe against the voluntary climate agreement — he said it would hamstring the U.S. economy and allow others to pollute more — one can infer that he still eyes climate science warily at best, but most likely rejects it in large part.
“The United States, under the Trump administration, will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth,” Trump said during the speech. “We’ll be the cleanest. We’re going to have the cleanest air. We’re going to have the cleanest water. We will be environmentally friendly…”
International leaders should realize at this point that the U.S. is being led by a climate denier who has little idea of how international agreements are negotiated, let alone renegotiated on a whim.
Much of the speech sounded eerily similar to media appearances by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator and well-known climate denier Scott Pruitt.
Pruitt told CNBC in March that rising amounts of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is not the main cause of recent global warming.
Climate scientists, on the other hand, almost uniformly say it is. One can infer from the similarity to Pruitt’s comments, and the fact that Trump invited Pruitt to the podium to finish the Rose Garden announcement, that Trump agrees with him on global warming.
The U.S. is being led by a climate denier who has little idea of how international agreements are negotiated, let alone renegotiated on a whim.
"I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see," Trump told the host of CNBC’s "Squawk Box."
"But we don’t know that yet, as far as… we need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis," he said. The question CNBC asked Pruitt was: "Do you believe that it’s been proven that [carbon dioxide] is the primary control knob for climate? Do you believe that?"
In Thursday’s Rose Garden speech, Trump talked about the way the agreement treats China and India compared to the U.S.
"China will be able to increase these emissions by a staggering number of years, 13," Trump said.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s views on climate change.
"India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries," Trump said. "There are many other examples, but the bottom line is that the Paris Accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States."
Compare that to what Pruitt told ABC News in late March:
"What was wrong with Paris was … that China and India, the largest producers of [carbon dioxide] internationally, got away scot free. They didn’t have to take steps until 2030."
"So we penalized ourselves through lost jobs, while China and India didn’t take steps to address this issue internationally," Pruitt said.
In reality, under the Paris Agreement (the White House kept calling it the "Paris Accord," which is under a different category in international law), the United States, the world’s second-largest emitter after China, pledged to reduce emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025, compared to 2005 levels.
China, meanwhile, agreed to peak its carbon emissions by 2030 and make best efforts to peak earlier.
More recent analyses show China’s emissions could peak closer to the middle of the decade than 2030. The world’s top carbon emitter also pledged to increase use of non-fossil fuel-based energy to 20 percent of its energy consumption within the same time frame.
To put that into everyday terms, that renewable energy increase in China would be equivalent to replacing the entire electrical grid in the U.S.
Yet that’s not enough for Pruitt and Trump, who have now proven themselves ready to lead the U.S., and the world, off a climate precipice together.