Donald Trump has a lot of things to say about global warming. He's called it an urgent problem, and he's called it a hoax. He's claimed it's a scam invented by the Chinese, and he's denied that he ever said that.
Some environmental activists initially pointed to Trump's unpredictable statementsas evidence that he might not follow through on his campaign pledges to dismantle the Obama administration's climate legacy. But just weeks after the 2016 election, one of his top aides assured Americans that Trump still believes climate science is mostly "bunk." Indeed, Trump quickly signed an executive order rolling back key Obama-era limits on greenhouse gas emissions. And now he's declared his intention to pull the United States out of the historic Paris climate agreement.
For those keeping score at home, here's a timeline of the Donald's thoughts and actions on global warming. We'll update it from time to time.
Trump signs a letter calling for urgent climate action. As Grist reported earlier this year, Trump and three of his children signed a 2009 letter to President Barack Obama calling for a global climate deal. "We support your effort to ensure meaningful and effective measures to control climate change, an immediate challenge facing the United States and the world today," declared the letter, which was signed by dozens of business leaders and published as an ad in the New York Times. "If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet."
Trump changes his mind, says Gore should be stripped of Nobel Prize because it's cold outside. According to the New York Post, Trump had changed his tune by early 2010, telling an audience at one of his golf clubs, "With the coldest winter ever recorded, with snow setting record levels up and down the coast, the Nobel committee should take the Nobel Prize back from Al Gore…Gore wants us to clean up our factories and plants in order to protect us from global warming, when China and other countries couldn't care less. It would make us totally noncompetitive in the manufacturing world, and China, Japan and India are laughing at America's stupidity." (He would later say he was joking about the Nobel Prize being rescinded.)
Trump claims scientists admitted global warming is a "con."Around this time, Trump caught wind of the so-called "ClimateGate scandal," in which climate deniers wrongly claimed a trove of hacked emails showed that scientists had conspired to fabricate evidence of global warming. Trump said (inaccurately) on Fox News that there was an email "sent a couple months ago by one of the leaders of global warming, the initiative…almost saying—I guess they're saying it's a con." He added that "in Washington, where I'm building a big development, nobody can move because we have 48 inches of snow."
"The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese."
Trump declares global warming a "hoax." As an unusually powerful ice storm ripped through the southern part of the United States, Trump announced that climate change is a "hoax."
Trump says scientists are in on the hoax. On January 6, Trump went on Fox News to discuss a severe cold snap that set records across the country. "This winter is brutal," said Trump, adding that climate change is a "hoax" perpetrated by "scientists [who] are having a lot of fun." Trump kept up this line of argument throughout the long and miserable winter.
Trump donates money to fight climate change. At some point in 2014, Trump donated $5,000 of his foundation's money to Protect Our Winters, an advocacy group dedicated to "mobilizing the outdoor sports community to lead the charge towards positive climate action." As the group's website explains, "If we're serious about slowing climate change, it's imperative that we decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and focus on cleaner sources of energy and electricity."
According to the New York Daily News, Trump made the donation at the request of Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Jamie Anderson, who was one of the contestants on Trump's Celebrity Apprentice reality show. Anderson was participating on behalf of Protect Our Winters, which, she said on the show, "brings light and inspiration to climate change." Still, Trump remained a climate change denier. During the season premier, which aired in early 2015, Trump suggested that New York's cold weather undermined Gilbert Gottfried's belief in climate science:
Trump says it's "madness" to call climate change our "No. 1 problem." The day after announcing his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination, Trump appeared on Sean Hannity's Fox News show, where he said he was "not a believer in man-made" warming. He added, "When I hear Obama saying that climate change is the No. 1 problem, it is just madness."
"I'm not a believer in man-made global warming." During the GOP primary race, Trump kept up his climate denial. Here he is on Hugh Hewitt's radio show: "I'm not a believer in man-made global warming. It could be warming, and it's going to start to cool at some point. And you know, in the early, in the 1920s, people talked about global cooling…They thought the Earth was cooling. Now, it's global warming…But the problem we have, and if you look at our energy costs, and all of the things that we're doing to solve a problem that I don't think in any major fashion exists."
Trump says it's "ridiculous" for Obama to pursue the Paris climate agreement. The long-anticipated Paris climate negotiations began barely two weeks after the city was struck by a devastating series of terrorist attacks. As the talks kicked off, Obama called the summit "an act of defiance" against terrorism and urged the world leaders gathered there to agree to an ambitious deal to combat global warming. Trump took to Instagram to express his disapproval. "While the world is in turmoil and falling apart in so many different ways—especially with ISIS—our president is worried about global warming," he said. "What a ridiculous situation."
"A lot of it's a hoax," and "I want to use hair spray." During a campaign speech in Hilton Head, South Carolina, Trump criticized Obama for worrying too much about "the carbon footprint" of the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change—an issue that Trump proceeded to conflate with the hole in the ozone layer. "I want to use hair spray," complained Trump. "They say, 'Don't use hair spray, it's bad for the ozone.' So I'm sitting in this concealed apartment, this concealed unit…It's sealed, it's beautiful. I don't think anything gets out. And I'm not supposed to be using hair spray?" He then returned to the subject of the climate hoax: "So Obama's talking about all of this with the global warming and the—a lot of it's a hoax, it's a hoax. I mean, it's a money-making industry, okay? It's a hoax, a lot of it."
Trump says his claim that global warming is a Chinese hoax was a "joke." At a Democratic debate in January, Bernie Sanders criticized Trump, noting the real estate mogul "believes that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese." Trump responded the next day on Fox News, suggesting that his infamous 2012 tweet was a joke. "I think the climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax," said Trump, according to PolitiFact. "A lot of people are making a lot of money…And I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China. Obviously, I joke. But this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change. They burn everything you could burn; they couldn't care less. They have very—you know, their standards are nothing. But they—in the meantime, they can undercut us on price. So it's very hard on our business."
Trump wants to build a sea wall to protect his resort from global warming. Politico reported that one of Trump's golf clubs asked officials in County Clare, Ireland, to approve construction of a sea wall to guard against the dangers of sea level rise and "more frequent storm events." According to an environmental impact statement submitted with the application, "If the predictions of an increase in sea level rise as a result of global warming prove correct…it is likely that there will be a corresponding increase in coastal erosion rates…In our view, it could reasonably be expected that the rate of sea level rise might become twice of that presently occurring."
"Trump digs coal." Shortly after clinching the GOP nomination, Trump traveled to West Virginia, where he was endorsed by the West Virginia Coal Association. At a rally in Charleston, Trump pointed to signs being waved in the crowd. "I see over here: 'Trump digs coal,'" he said. "That's true. I do." Trump promised to bring back coal mining jobs by repealing Obama's "ridiculous rules and regulations."
Trump pledges to "cancel" the Paris climate agreement. In a major speech on energy policy, Trump said that during his first 100 days in office, he would "rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions including" his landmark climate regulations, "cancel the Paris Climate Agreement," and "stop all payments of US tax dollars to UN global warming programs."
Trump says he "probably" called climate change a "hoax." In a remarkably odd exchange on Fox News, Bill O'Reilly asked Trump whether it was "true" that he had "called climate change a hoax." Trump replied that he "might have" done so following the release of the ClimateGate emails. "Yeah, I probably did," he added. "I see what's going on." Trump went on to say that fossil fuels "could have a minor impact" on the climate but "nothing [compared] to what they're talking about."
Trump picks leading climate skeptic to run the EPA transition. Hours before Trump's first debate with Hillary Clinton, word leaked that he had chosen Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute to lead his transition efforts at the Environmental Protection Agency. Ebell has a long history of opposing efforts to fight climate change; he's even accused climate scientists of "manipulating and falsifying the data." As we reported, "Ebell has called…Obama's Clean Power Plan 'illegal' and the Paris Climate Accord a 'usurpation of the Senate's authority.' Any small increase in global temperatures, he has said, is 'nothing to worry about.'"
Trump denies saying climate change is a Chinese hoax. During the first debate, Clinton noted that Trump "thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese." In response, Trump simply lied. "I did not, I did not," he said. "I do not say that." Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway later attempted to clarify his position, telling the Huffington Post, "What he has said is, he believes [climate change] is naturally occurring and is not all man-made."
Trump has "open mind" on Paris agreement but still thinks scientists are misleading us. In an interview with the New York Times two weeks after his victory, Trump made a number of confusing and contradictory statements about climate science and policy. Asked if he still planned to pull out of the Paris agreement, Trump said, "I have an open mind to it. We're going to look very carefully." He conceded that there is "some connectivity" between humans and climate change," adding, "It depends on how much. It also depends on how much it's going to cost our companies." He claimed that the "hottest day ever" was in 1898. He said climate is "a very complex subject. I'm not sure anybody is ever going to really know." He once again invoked ClimateGate, declaring, "They say they have science on one side but then they also have those horrible emails that were sent between the scientists." And, apparently in contrast to his request to build a sea wall in Ireland, Trump even speculated that sea level rise would actually improve the Trump National Doral golf course in Florida. (He may be wrong about that.)
Trump's "default position" is that climate change "is a bunch of bunk." Following Trump's confusing New York Timesinterview, incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus sought to reassure supporters that the president-elect is, in fact, a climate change denier. "As far as this issue on climate change, the only thing he was saying, after being asked a few questions about it, is, 'Look, I'll have an open mind about it,'" Priebus explained on Fox. "But he has his default position, which is that most of it is a bunch of bunk. But he'll have an open mind and listen to people."
Ivanka Trump "wants to make climate change…one of her signature issues." According to Politico, a "source close to" Trump's daughter Ivanka said the first daughter "wants to make climate change—which her father has called a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese—one of her signature issues…The source said Ivanka is in the early stages of exploring how to use her spotlight to speak out on the issue."
Donald and Ivanka Trump meet with Al Gore.
Trump picks climate change skeptic to lead the EPA. Two days after meeting with Gore, Trump selected Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA. As Oklahoma's attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA to block the Clean Power Plan, Obama's restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. He also claimed that "scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind." As EPA administrator, Pruitt has continued to reject the scientific consensus, telling CNBC in March 2017 that he doesn't believe carbon dioxide is "a primary contributor to the global warming that we see."
White House climate website replaced with pledge to eliminate Obama's climate regulations. At the same time Trump was being sworn in as president, the White House website's climate page was replaced by Trump's "America First Energy Plan." It's normal for an incoming administration to replace its predecessors website. What was notable, however, was that Trump's plan made only one stray reference to climate change: "President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan."
The New York Times reports that Trump advisers are "fiercely divided" on Paris agreement. On the campaign trail, Trump promised to "cancel" the Paris climate accords. But the Times reported that early in his presidency, key administration officials were split on the issue. According to the paper, chief White House strategist Steven Bannon was urging Trump to abandon the agreement. Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were pushing back, worried that "the move could have broad and damaging diplomatic ramifications."
Trump administration will revisit fuel standards. At an event in Detroit, Trump announced plans to reexamine the tougher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles enacted by the Obama administration.
Trump plans to cut to climate research because it's "a waste of your money." The Trump administration released a budget proposal that would wipe out $100 million in funding for the EPA's climate work, including scientific research and the Clean Power Plan. The plan would eliminate international climate aid and scale back NASA's earth science research. Asked about the cuts to climate science, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney responded, "I think the president was fairly straightforward: We're not spending money on that anymore; we consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that."
Trump pledges executive actions that will "save our coal industry." At a campaign-style rally in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump said: "We are going to put our coal miners back to work. They have not been treated well, but they're going to be treated well now. Clean coal, right? Clean coal…As we speak, we are preparing new executive actions to save our coal industry and to save our wonderful coal miners from continuing to be put out of work. The miners are coming back."
Trump believes in manmade climate change, but the "key question is to what extent, over what period of time." During a background briefing, a senior White House official indicated to reporters that Trump does believe that humans cause the climate to change. But, the official added, "I guess the key question is to what extent, over what period of time. Those are the big questions that I think still we need to answer." A reporter then asked if White House staffers working on the issue believe that climate change is caused by humans, to which the official responded, "I haven't talked to everyone in the White House." A reporter followed up: "Do you believe in manmade climate change?" The official responded, "Yes, sure, I do…Again, the issue really is as to what extent and how serious and the magnitude of it. And there are a lot of other questions that flow from that statement that I think are still unanswered and we still don't know the answers to."
Trump signs executive order gutting many of Obama's climate policies, including the Clean Power Plan. Just days after the spectacular failure of his health care bill, Trump ordered his administration to revisit the Clean Power Plan, with the intention of gutting Obama's landmark restrictions on power plant emissions. Trump also reversed an Obama-era moratorium on new coal leases on public lands, directed his team to revise Obama's methane regulations, and instructed the EPA to ignore its current calculation of the cost of carbon pollution. Trump did leave the Paris agreement in place, at least for the time being.
Trump gets "lathered up" about climate reporting and the mainstream media after falling for an internet hoax. According to a May Politico story, "KT McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, had given Trump a printout of two Time magazine covers. One, supposedly from the 1970s, warned of a coming ice age; the other, from 2008, about surviving global warming, according to four White House officials familiar with the matter. Trump quickly got lathered up about the media's hypocrisy. But there was a problem. The 1970s cover was fake, part of an internet hoax that's circulated for years."
Trump's views on Paris deal are "evolving." At the G7 conference in Italy, White House adviser Gary Cohn spoke to reporters about Trump's views on the Paris agreement. "I think his views are evolving," said Cohn, according to Reuters. "He came here to learn. He came here to get smart. His views are evolving, which is exactly as they should be. His basis for a decision ultimately is going to be what's best for the United States." According to a pool report, Cohn also noted that Trump emphasized to foreign leaders that he "care[s] a lot about the environment" and "talked about environmental awards he received in the past."
Trump is "wide open" on Paris accord. On CBS, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that he sat in on recent discussions Trump had with other NATO leaders about the Paris deal. "The president was open, he was curious about why others were in the position they were in, his counterparts in other nations," said Mattis. "And I'm quite certain the president is wide open on this issue as he takes in the pros and cons of that accord."
Trump staffers pretend not to know what the president thinks about climate science. As the White House rolled out Trump's decision on the Paris climate deal, reporters repeatedly askedwhether the president believes that humans cause climate change. His staff played dumb. "You are going to have to ask him," economic adviser Gary Cohn told CNN. "I have not talked to the president about his personal views on climate change," said a White House official during a background briefing. "I don't not speak for the president," said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on CNN. Asked on ABC if Trump still thinks global warming is a hoax, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said, "You should ask him that." EPA administrator Scott Pruitt refused to answer the question four separate times during one briefing. "Honestly, I haven't asked him. I can get back to you," press secretary Sean Spicer told one reporter who asked whether Trump believes in climate science. But Spicer never did. Three days later, the press secretary was asked about it again and still responded, "I have not had an opportunity to have that discussion."
Trump announces he will pull out of Paris deal. In a speech in the White House Rose Garden, Trump announced his plan to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate deal. The president said he was open to renegotiating the agreement, but foreign leaders quickly made clear that wasn't possible.
This story has been updated. Natalie Schreyer and Rebecca Leber contributed to this article.