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Trump’s Misleading Speech on His Environmental Record Is a ‘True “1984” Moment’

Politics
Trump boards Air Force One under heavy rain at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland on April 6, 2017. JIM WATSON / AFP / Getty Images

President Donald Trump delivered a speech Monday on "America's environmental leadership" that failed to even once mention climate change, The New York Times reported. The speech was also riddled with inaccuracies, as the president took credit for environmental achievements enacted by previous administrations and downplayed the impacts of his deregulatory agenda.


"This speech is a true '1984' moment," said David G. Victor, director of the Laboratory on International Law and Regulation at the University of California, San Diego, to The New York Times.

At one point, the doublespeak prompted Fox News host Shepard Smith to interrupt the broadcast to point out that many of Trump's policies had been "widely criticized by environmentalists and academics," HuffPost reported.

Smith then went on to list some of the more than 80 regulatory rollbacks the Trump administration has initiated, including the recent repeal of the Clean Power Plan that would have limited emissions from coal plants.

While Trump did not mention the climate crisis outright, he did make a misleading claim about U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, stating that, in the past decade, the U.S. had seen an emissions decrease "more than any other country on earth," The New York Times reported. In fact, more than 12 other countries, including much of the EU, have seen declines that double the U.S. decrease of more than 10 percent.

In addition to lying about greenhouse gas emissions, Trump also criticized one of the leading proposals for reducing them: the Green New Deal.

"While we're focused on practical solutions, more than 100 Democrats in Congress support the so-called Green New Deal," the president said, as CBS News reported. "Their plan is estimated to cost our economy nearly $100 trillion. A number unthinkable. A number not affordable even in the best of times. If you go 150 years from now, and we've had great success, that's not a number that's even thought to be affordable. Kill millions of jobs, it'll crush the dreams of the poorest Americans and disproportionately harm minority communities. I will not stand for it. We will defend the environment but we will also defend American sovereignty, American prosperity, and we will defend American jobs."

In fact, the Green New Deal resolution proposes to create millions of high-wage jobs and to specifically protect and uplift vulnerable communities.

"Here are the facts: The Green New Deal puts justice and equity at its center," Washington Governor and climate-focused presidential candidate Jay Inslee tweeted in response to Trump's remarks. "If we don't act on climate, people of color and low-income communities will continue to be hit the hardest."

Trump was also misleading when he shifted away from carbon pollution.

"From day one my administration has made it a top priority to ensure that America is among the very cleanest air and cleanest water on the planet," Trump said, as CNN reported. "We want the cleanest air. We want crystal clean water and that's what we're doing and that's what we're working on so hard."

But Trump's rollbacks attack air and water as well as climate. The Clean Power Plan replacement could cause up to 1,400 extra air pollution deaths a year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's own estimates, and his EPA is also working to weaken the Obama-era Clean Water Rule that would protect streams and wetlands from pollution.

Environmental groups roundly criticized Trump's speech.

"Donald Trump's speech today was full of more hot air than his dangerous policies and rollbacks are pumping into our atmosphere," Sierra Club executive director MIchael Brune said in a statement. "Attempting to greenhouse gaslight the American people with a single speech — one that fails to even acknowledge the climate crisis — won't help the families and communities suffering from the toxic pollution caused by Trump's dangerous agenda. No amount of speeches, lies, or stunts will ever change the fact that Donald Trump has the worst record on the environment and climate of any president in American history."

Environmental Defense Fund Action President Joe Bonfiglio agreed.

"President Trump has obviously seen the polls showing that Americans care about clean air, clean water, and solving climate change — so today he's reportedly going to try to do the impossible: talk his way out of the most damaging and backward environmental record in American history," he said in a statement. "The fact is that the Trump administration has worked to undermine environmental protections established by both Republican and Democratic presidents, compiling what can charitably be called a disastrous environmental record."

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