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Trump digs in deeper on climate denial, accuses scientists of ‘political agenda’

Climate change could reverse itself, president says in "60 Minutes" interview.

President Trump saod on October 14, 2018 that scientists who agree that humans are making climate change worse "have a political agenda" in an interview on "60 Minutes." CREDIT: CBS News's 60 Minutes/screenshot
President Trump saod on October 14, 2018 that scientists who agree that humans are making climate change worse "have a political agenda" in an interview on "60 Minutes." CREDIT: CBS News's 60 Minutes/screenshot

President Donald Trump on Sunday slammed climate scientists who have warned about the catastrophic impacts of climate change if forceful action is not taken immediately as “having a political agenda.”

In an interview with “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl, Trump said Stahl would have to show him the scientists who believe in human-caused climate change “because they have a very big political agenda.”

“I can’t bring them in,” Stahl responded.

Trump refused to retract his comments about climate scientists. “Look, scientists also have a political agenda,” the president repeated.

Since taking over the presidency, protecting jobs and the U.S. economy have been two of the reasons that Trump has given for announcing the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and rolling back climate initiatives previously implemented by the U.S. government.

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In the “60 Minutes” interview, Trump claimed that taking action against climate change could reduce the number of jobs. He said, “I don’t wanna lose millions and millions of dollars. I don’t wanna be put at a disadvantage.”

In 2017, though, an analysis by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development concluded that the world’s major economies could boost their long-term economic growth by 2.8 percent to 5 percent with policies that lower greenhouse gas emissions and improve resilience to climate change. Failure to act, on the other hand, will result in a loss of jobs and economic output in the long run, the study said.

Last month, for instance, another study found the United States would be the second most impacted economically by climate change, behind India. Meaning the U.S. stands to gain a lot economically by tackling greenhouse gas emissions.

Stahl interviewed Trump last Thursday in the White House, one day after Category 4 Hurricane Michael destroyed large parts of the Florida Panhandle. Along with questions about climate change, Stahl also asked him about China and Russia and the suspected murder of a Saudi journalist by the Saudi Arabian government.

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During her preparations for the interview, Stahl told the president that she thought about about the impact he would have if he stopped ignoring the scientific consensus on climate change. “I was thinking what if he said, ‘No, I’ve seen the hurricane situations, I’ve changed my mind. There really is climate change,'” she described to Trump. “And I thought, ‘Wow, what an impact.'”

Trump, however, refused to concede any ground on climate change. “I’m not denying climate change. But it could very well go back” to a period of stable temperatures or global cooling, Trump said in response to Stahl’s comment.

“But that’s denying it,” Stahl countered.

Environmental groups expressed dismay that the U.S. president continues to make inaccurate statement about climate change despite the scientific consensus.

“If Trump’s comments denying climate science were made by some guy muttering on a street corner, it would be easy to dismiss them as the ravings of a delusional crank,” Greenpeace USA climate director Janet Redman said Monday in a statement. “Tragically, this is the President of the United States, and his willful ignorance will have profound costs measured in lives and dollars lost by American families.”

In the interview, Stahl asked Trump if he believes climate change is a hoax. “I don’t think it’s a hoax,” the president said. “But I don’t know that it’s manmade.”

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Trump’s denial of climate science comes just a few days after the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the world will cross a key threshold of dangerous climate change by 2040 on its current greenhouse gas emissions path. Scientists around the world have known for decades that climate change is caused by humans.

Yet Trump has a long history of scientifically inaccurate and incendiary statements about climate change.

In 2012, Trump tweeted that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

At a political rally on December 30, 2015, Trump told a crowd in Hilton Head, South Carolina that “Obama’s talking about all of this with the global warming and … a lot of it’s a hoax. It’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a money-making industry, okay? It’s a hoax, a lot of it.”

Stahl noted that government scientists too have concluded human-caused climate change is already causing serious impacts. Trump responded without evidence that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA have scientists that “disagree with that.”

However, NASA’s website states that “multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”

And Trump’s NASA chief Jim Bridenstine, a one-time climate denier when he served in the U.S. House of Representatives, in June told a NASA town hall meeting he no longer denies the scientific consensus on climate change. “I believe fully in climate change and that we human beings are contributing to it in a major way,” he said.

Stahl told Trump that she wishes he “could go to Greenland, watch these huge chunks of ice just falling into the ocean, raising the sea levels.”

Dismissing any connection to climate change, Trump responded: “You don’t know whether or not that would have happened with or without man.”

Scientists, however, have concluded that the warming climate is melting the Greenland ice sheet. The collapse of ice sheets in Greenland could lead to sea-level rise by as much as 24 feet.

“We’ve reached the moment of truth in our fight against climate change, a defining moment for all of us — all generations — where our collective fate hangs in the balance,” Greenpeace’s Redman said.

The IPCC report “makes it clear that there’s no time to indulge fossil fuel stooges like Donald Trump in their science fiction fantasies,” she warned. “We still have time to shift course to avoid catastrophic climate change, but it will require all of us taking action and holding our elected officials accountable at all levels.”