Friday, June 2, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He refused to allow his staff to say what he thought about climate change.

Trump talked about many things in his Rose Garden speech yesterday announcing that he was pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accords--but oddly, the subject of the climate itself wasn't among them. Nor did Trump mention the word "science" once. The omission was noticeable because in the past, Trump had no qualms about stating his opinion about the science of anthropogenic climate change: that it was "bullshit" and a fraud made up by China to hurt American manufacturing. On Twitter alone, Trump made 115 references to climate change science, all of them opposed to it.

But for all that, Trump has also taken the opposing view. In a debate with Hillary Clinton, who brought up the "Chinese hoax" tweet, he denied (falsely) ever having said it. His speech yesterday implicitly acknowledged that human activity is making the planet warmer, when he (inaccurately) said that the Paris Accords would only reduce temperatures by 0.2 °C if fully implemented. And perhaps most tellingly, he has sought permission to build a sea wall at one of his golf courses in Ireland, explicitly saying that it is necessary to protect the property from the effects of climate change.

Administration officials were asked repeatedly today whether Trump believes in climate change or not. At least five senior White House staffers flatly refused to commit Trump to a position, with one saying that whether Trump believes that climate change is happening was not "on topic" for a discussion about the Paris Climate Change Accords.

Why should anyone care?

  • There's secrecy, and then there's a president saying, in effect, "my views on major policy issues are none of the American people's business."
  • It's bad if there's no clear way to know which of the contradictory statements a president makes on a subject are "bullshit."