Trump’s assertion Monday that he is a friend of the environment came at the conclusion of the Group of Seven (G-7) summit in France, after he skipped the climate portion of the summit and a discussion on Brazil’s raging forest fires.
The president’s words, coupled with his actions, prompted swift criticism from environmental advocates.
“It’s detached from reality, just like everything he has ever said about climate and renewable energy,” said Mitch Jones, climate and energy program director at Food & Water Action. “For this president to claim he’s an environmentalist is one of the most absurd jokes on mankind ever been played. And it’s not funny.”
Trump’s absence from the environment-focused portions of the annual meeting of world leaders also renewed questions among his critics about whether he believes in man-made climate change.
“I’m an environmentalist. A lot of people don’t understand that,” Trump said at Monday’s press conference. “I think I know more about the environment than most people.”
Trump has played a major role in scaling back environmental regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency has rewritten regulations for coal-fired power plants, vehicle emissions and methane in ways that will weaken protections and significantly add to pollution, environmentalists argue.
But the president’s detractors say it’s not just the rolling back of Obama-era rules and those of his predecessors that they find worrisome.
“You can’t really identify a single regulation proposed by this administration which would improve environmental protections or improve public health and safety protections,” said David Doniger, senior strategic director of the climate and clean energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
When reached for comment, the White House pointed to a July speech in which the president hailed his administration’s environmental leadership alongside its oil and gas production.
That speech was blasted by scientists and conservationists.
“The media has largely ignored the fact that the United States under President Trump’s leadership and policies has made the air, water, and environment cleaner,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesman said in a statement to The Hill. “We are the party of conservation, environmental protection, and expanding responsible clean energy technologies while the Democrats’ radical Green New Deal would outlaw cows, cars, and planes, crippling America’s economy and crushing the poorest communities across the globe that rely solely on fossil fuels to survive.”
Critics argue that Trump’s record has been anything but laudable.
In the first year of his presidency, Trump vowed to pull the U.S. out of the landmark Paris climate agreement, calling the international accord “very unfair.” He also challenged his administration’s own National Climate Assessment findings that warned the U.S. economy would be dramatically hit by global warming, saying, “I don’t believe it.”
But national polls show that climate change and the environment are becoming leading issues for voters, especially Democrats. And with the universal appeal of clean water and air, some observers view Trump’s comments from Monday as a way to appease voters.
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