Energy & Environment

Trump’s laughable climate change claims


Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has again made himself the object of derision around the world by making laughable claims about climate change during a TV interview.

{mosads}During his July 26 appearance on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” Trump made a rambling and incoherent attempt to justify his denial of the scientific evidence showing overwhelmingly that climate change is happening and creating very significant risks for Americans and other people around the world.

When asked by host Bill O’Reilly if he had called climate change a “hoax,” Trump said:

“Well, I might have because when I look at some of the things that are going on, in fact if you look at Europe where they had their big summer a couple of years ago where people were sending out emails, scientists practically calling it a hoax, and they were laughing at it, so yeah, I probably did.”

This extraordinary conspiracy yarn has little basis in reality. It seems likely that Trump was attempting to refer to emails that were stolen from computers at the U.K.’s University of East Anglia in 2009 ahead of the United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

While climate change deniers misrepresented the content of the emails on websites, and spread rumours that they revealed fakery by climate scientists, several thorough investigations subsequently showed these allegations to be completely false.

The main independent inquiry concluded that “their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt.”

British police were unable to discover who had illegally obtained the emails, but there was speculation in the U.K. media that Russian hackers were responsible, although, presumably, not responding to an appeal from Trump.

Since the hacking in 2009, the scientific evidence for the risks of climate change has grown even stronger, leading more than 170 countries, including the United States, to sign the Paris agreement earlier this year, committing them to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Another bogus suggestion by Trump during the TV interview was that the competitiveness of the United States is suffering because it alone is tackling climate change. As he said:

“We’re adhering to these very strict rules and you look at China and you look at all these other countries, practically all of them, they’re not adhering to the rules and our jobs are being jeopardised — not jeopardized, they’re being taken away.”

Again, the truth is starkly different from Trump’s account. The Paris Agreement covers actions due to be undertaken between 2020 and 2030, contained in pledges by each nation, described as “intended nationally determined contributions.” The United States indicated that its annual emissions of greenhouse gases will be 26 to 28 percent below its 2005 level in 2025.

Trump has previously promised to renegotiate the Paris agreement if he becomes president, an ambition that would be extremely difficult to achieve.

But the United States has a patchy record of honouring its commitments to the predecessors to the Paris agreement: the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen Accord.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, which the United States signed in 1998, the U.S. was supposed to reduce its annual emissions of greenhouse gases so that they were 7 percent lower, on average, during the period between 2008 and 2012 compared with 1990.

However, the George W. Bush administration reneged on the nation’s commitment shortly after taking office in 2001, following a lobbying campaign by ExxonMobil and other companies.

According to the latest inventory published by the Environmental Protection Agency, greenhouse gas emissions from the United States were 7.4 percent higher in 2014, the most recent year for which data are available, than in 1990.

Meanwhile, the 15 European countries, including the U.K., which agreed to cut their collective annual emissions by 8 percent by 2008-2012, actually achieved a reduction of more than 12 percent.

But the United States may be on target to fulfill its international obligations under the Copenhagen Accord, requiring a drop in annual emissions of 17 percent by 2020 compared with 2005. Annual emissions in 2014 were 6.9 percent lower in 2014 than they were in 2005.

However, the ability of the United States to keep its pledges about emissions has been undermined by the refusal by Congress to pass domestic legislation to act against greenhouse gas emissions, with the Republican Party gripped by unscientific climate change denial.

Meanwhile, the latest analysis of China’s efforts shows that its large investments in clean energy are paying off, and it is on track to meet ahead of schedule its pledge under the Paris agreement to reach a peak in its emissions of carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas, by 2030.

Donald Trump will find it increasingly difficult to be taken seriously outside the United States if he continues to propagate such ludicrous myths about climate change.

Ward is policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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