Trump's top environment official refuses to say if President believes in climate change

Before he was president, Donald Trump called global warming an 'expensive hoax'

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The Independent US

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has refused to answer the question of whether President Donald Trump believes climate change is real, one of several officials to sidestep the question as the fallout continues over the decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement.

In a White House briefing, Scott Pruitt repeatedly responded that the Paris agreement “puts the US at an economic disadvantage” when asked about Mr Trump’s views on climate change.

The administrator said that the debate over the Paris agreement is “not about whether climate change is occurring or not.”

Mr Pruitt called the withdrawal of the US from the accord – signed by almost 200 countries – a courageous decision on behalf of America that puts the country first. “We have nothing to be apologetic about", Mr Pruitt said.

The US’s move to withdraw has been met with sharp criticism from world leaders, including former President Barack Obama, who used an executive order to push through US involvement in the deal, allowing him to bypass climate sceptics in Congress.

Long before he was president, Mr Trump called global warming “an expensive hoax”. He did not make such comments during his announcement of his decision on the Paris accord, hailing himself as “someone who cares deeply about the environment”.

Also asked about the President’s views on climate change, White House press secretary Sean Spicer responded: “I have not had an opportunity to have that discussion.”

“You should ask him that and I hope you have a chance,” said Kellyanne Conway, a White House adviser, on the topic. When pressed, Conway said Mr Trump “believes in clean air, clean water, a clean environment and believes we have to negotiate better deals for this country.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told CNN that while he does not “believe [climate change] is a hoax,” he does not speak for the President. Mr Zinke later added that he had not asked Mr Trump about his thoughts on the topic.

During a briefing in the West Wing on Thursday, a reporter asked a senior White House official if Mr Trump “believes human activity contributes to climate change?”

The official replied: “I did not talk to the president about his personal views on what is contributing to climate change.”

Mr Trump also avoided the question at a late - and unrelated - bill signing. Which marks a big change in recent years, and particularly since he became President.

Mr Trump's Twitter feed once was filled with references to “so-called” global warming being a “total con job” based on “faulty science and manipulated data.” 

An Associated Press search of his twitter archives revealed at least 90 instances in which he has referred to “global warming” and “climate change” since 2011. In nearly every instance, he expressed scepticism or mockery. 

“This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bulls*** has got to stop,” he wrote in January 2014. 

Often the president has pointed to cold weather as evidence the climate scientists are wrong. 

“Where the hell is global warming when you need it?” he asked in January 2015. 

“I'm not a believer in man-made global warming,” Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in September 2015, after launching his bid for the White House. He bemoaned the fact that the US was investing money and doing things “to solve a problem that I don't think in any major fashion exists.” 

 

“I am not a believer,” he added, “Unless somebody can prove something to me ... I am not a believer and we have much bigger problems.” 

By March 2016, the president appeared to allow that the climate was changing — but continued to doubt humans were to blame. 

“I think there's a change in weather. I am not a great believer in man-made climate change. I'm not a great believer,” he told The Washington Post. “There is certainly a change in weather,” he said. 

 In an interview with The New York Times in November, after the election said he was “looking at [the issue of climate change] very closely”.  

“I have an open mind to it. We're going to look very carefully,” he added. 

He went on to say that he thought “there is some connectivity” between human activity and the changing climate, but that, “It depends on how much.” 

Asked about the comment several days later, Trump's now-chief of staff Reince Priebus told Fox News that Trump “has his default position, which is that most of it is a bunch of bunk.” 

Last week, during meetings and summits with allies that focused on the issue - White House officials characterised his views as "evolving," but as yet it is unclear which way.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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