Trump's Davos speech instantly shot down by leading economist: 'The characterisation of the economy is totally wrong'

Acclaimed professor hands out fact-check sheet challenging president's speech

Conrad Duncan
Tuesday 21 January 2020 13:54
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Trump attacks climate change 'prophets of doom'

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has given a withering assessment of Donald Trump’s speech at the World Economic Forum and said the president has misrepresented the economy and failed to address the problem of climate change.

In his speech to political and business leaders at Davos 2020, Mr Trump lauded a list of supposed achievements by his administration since taking office three years ago.

However, Mr Stiglitz immediately rejected the speech and argued that “the characterisation of the economy is totally wrong”.

“He managed to say absolutely zero on climate change,” the economist said, voicing frustration at the president’s failure to tackle climate issues beyond a commitment to join an initiative to plant a trillion trees worldwide.

“Meanwhile, we’re going to roast.”

Mr Stiglitz ​also reportedly handed out a sheet of statistics in the auditorium where the president was speaking which challenged Mr Trump’s claims about the economy.

The president’s speech this year was met with almost total silence from the crowd, unlike his speech in 2019, when he was met with occasional boos and laughter.

Climate change is a focal point of this year’s meeting in Davos for political and business leaders.

Kenneth Rogoff, a prominent American economist, has suggested Mr Trump avoided talking about climate change because it is an unpopular topic for his administration.

“He would have been booed if he said anything much about this [climate change] and I think he was being very careful not to get booed,” Mr Rogoff said.

However, the academic added that he believes some of the president’s statements about the strength of the economy were true.

“What’s true is that the US economy has done well,” he said.

“It wasn’t doing badly when he came in, that’s not true, but I think it’s done better than most of this group [the World Economic Forum] would have expected.”

Mr Trump’s speech came as climate activist Greta Thunberg told leaders they were not doing enough to tackle the climate emergency.

“We need to start listening to the science, and treat this crisis with the importance it deserves,” she said.

In reference to the president’s announcement that the US would join the “one trillion trees” initiative to help capture carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere, Greta added that planting trees was “nowhere near enough” to tackle the crisis.

Mr Trump was met with widespread criticism in 2017 when he announced plans to pull the US out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement and dismissed efforts to mitigate global warming.

In his speech, the president appeared to make a thinly-veiled attack on climate change activists, when he said the world “must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse.”

Mr Stiglitz has been a prominent critic of the president’s economic policies and published a scathing criticism of his achievements on Monday.

“Trump may be a good president for the top 1 per cent - and especially for the top 0.1 per cent - but he has not been good for everyone else,” he wrote in The Guardian.

On the Trump administration’s record on climate change, the economist added: “Making matters worse, the [economic] growth that has occurred is not environmentally sustainable - and even less so thanks to the Trump administration’s gutting of regulations that have passed stringent cost-benefit analyses.

“The air will be less breathable, the water less drinkable and the planet more subject to climate change.”

More than 90 environmental rules and regulations have been rolled back, or are in the process of being rolled back, under Mr Trump, according to analysis by the New York Times in December.

Additional reporting by AP

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