President Donald Trump and Prince Charles discussed climate change for an hour and a half during Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom this week. According to Trump, who has repeatedly rejected climate science, he was most impressed by Charles’ concern for future generations — an assertion that contradicts his administration’s efforts to stop a landmark youth climate lawsuit against the federal government.
“I’ll tell you what moved me is his passion for future generations,” Trump told Piers Morgan Wednesday on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. “He’s really not doing this for him; he’s doing this for future generations. And this is real — he believes that; he wants to have a world that’s good for future generations. And I do, too.”
“He is really into climate change and I think that’s great,” Trump continued. “What he really wants and what he really feels warmly about is the future. He wants to make sure future generations have climate that is good climate, as opposed to a disaster, and I agree.”
Despite insisting that he “totally listened” to what Charles had to say about the climate crisis, Trump then claimed that the science of climate change is uncertain. “I believe there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways,” Trump said.
Trump’s comments came on the heels of oral arguments in Oregon to decide whether a landmark youth climate case can proceed to trial. In what legal experts have called a groundbreaking piece of climate litigation, the youth lawsuit seeks to hold the federal government accountable for its role in perpetuating climate change.
The crux of this lawsuit is the argument that the U.S. government, in supporting a system that is reliant on fossil fuels and in actively taking steps to continue this reliance, is violating younger generations’ Fifth Amendment rights.
As the plaintiffs’ brief states, the 21 children and young adults who brought the lawsuit risk being deprived of their “rights to life, liberty, property, and public trust resources by federal government acts that knowingly destroy, endanger, and impair the unalienable climate system that nature endows.”
On Tuesday, Julia Olson, lead attorney for Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit organization that filed the lawsuit on behalf of the youth plaintiffs, told judges at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland that the government is discriminating against younger generations.
“The government devalues the lives of these young people by making decisions on energy policies,” she said. “[It] values them less and values adults today more.”
She argued that the government’s discrimination against this younger generation should be declared unconstitutional.
“If we look back on the 20th century, we can see race and sex discrimination were the constitutional questions of the era,” Olson said in her concluding remarks. “When our great-grandchildren look back … they will see government-sanctioned climate destruction was the constitutional question of this century.”
The lead attorney representing the federal government in the case argued that it does not think this constitutional right being asserted by the plaintiffs even exists.
Trump’s comments to Morgan would appear to run counter to the arguments his own government’s lawyers are using to try to get the youth climate lawsuit thrown out. Instead, by saying he agrees that future generations should have a “good climate, as opposed to a disaster,” he may even bolster the youth plaintiffs’ case.
Additionally, when Morgan suggested that the United States should do more to tackle climate change, Trump pushed back with long-repeated talking points about the United States having the cleanest air and the cleanest water.
Trump and his officials have repeatedly dismissed climate science and the need to take immediate action to address the crisis. At the same time, his administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to take steps to roll back vital protections to ensure clean air and clean water, often benefiting the fossil fuel industry.
With these actions and others, the administration is making decisions that have a direct, adverse impact on younger generations. For example, the EPA recently announced it was cutting 13 research centers aimed at reducing environmental threats to children.
The EPA is also working to change the way it calculates the cost of air pollution rules. In doing so, it would be ignoring the benefits of reduced health risks and the number of lives saved. Scientists argue there is no safe level of exposure from microscopic pollution particles, as even the tiniest particles in very small quantities are believed to impact the brains of unborn children.