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ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is "no friend of the planet"—much like the rest of Donald Trump's cabinet picks. (Photo: Reuters)

Stacking Cabinet With Deniers, Trump Says 'Nobody Really Knows' on Climate

Trump's latest statements on climate change jibe with his cabinet appointments thus far

Deirdre Fulton

Capping off a week that saw him nominate a known climate skeptic to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and put forth a fossil fuel CEO as potential secretary of state, President-elect Donald Trump said in a Sunday interview that "nobody really knows" if climate change is real. 

When asked by "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace where he stands on the issue, Trump responded: "I'm still open-minded. Nobody really knows. Look, I'm somebody that gets it, and nobody really knows. It's not something that's so hard and fast."

He also claimed to be "studying" the Paris Agreement and whether to withdraw, saying, "I don't want that agreement to put us at a competitive disadvantage with other countries."

The comments came days after reports that Trump's Energy Department transition team has been asking for the names of civil servants that worked on environmental policies under President Barack Obama, sparking fears of a coming "climate purge" by the incoming administration.

Indeed, the Trump administration's energy agenda, recently revealed by PRWatch, "collectively amounts to a fossil fuel industry wish list...which would be devastating for attempts to slow climate change."

And the Guardian writes:

Trump has assembled a transition team in which at least nine senior members deny basic scientific understanding that the planet is warming due to the burning of carbon and other human activity. These include the transition heads of all the key agencies responsible for either monitoring or dealing with climate change. None of these transition heads have any background in climate science.

Meanwhile, his likely selection of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state is stirring the ire of environmentalists who describe the Big Oil magnate as "no friend of the planet."

In a statement this weekend, Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter declared Tillerson's likely nomination to be "a frightful prospect for our planet."

"If confirmed," Hauter said, "Tillerson would have an unprecedented platform to promote drilling and fracking for oil and gas around the world at the expense of clean energy and our climate."

Given past statements by Tillerson and Exxon's top leadership, Hauter added: "We must presume that aggressive opposition to renewables—and environmental protection at large—would become official policy in a Trump-Tillerson State Department."

Drawing a comparison between Trump's cabinet appointments thus far and the counsel of his daughter, Ivanka—who "appears to be establishing a role as the one person who might prevent the Trump administration from undoing all of the progress made by the Obama administration in cutting US carbon pollution"—Guardian blogger Dana Nuccitelli writes Monday:

On the issue of climate change, Trump resembles a character with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Except in this case, the devil also has a horde of demons beside him. Trump has filled every position of power with fossil fuel industry allies who have years of experience in undermining government efforts to slow human-caused global warming.

Trump certainly listens to and trusts his daughter Ivanka, who in Gore and DiCaprio, has wisely invited the counsel of high-profile individuals that are well-informed about the subject of climate change. However, it’s difficult to imagine that Ivanka’s influence on the president can outweigh the direct actions of the climate foes who he has appointed to powerful government positions, especially since she’s new to government and policy debates. Obviously her counsel to date hasn't stopped Trump from continuing to make these nightmarish appointments.

"The winner of this battle will determine whether the Trump name forever becomes synonymous with climate heroism or villainy," Nuccitelli concludes. "So far, the villains are winning bigly."

Trump and his "demons" appear to be at least partially out of step with members of their own party. While a recent Pew poll showed fewer than a quarter of Republican respondents believe climate change to be the result of human activity, the same survey found widespread, bipartisan report for expansion of wind and solar industries. It also found that most Republicans (69 percent among moderate or liberal Republicans and 48 percent of conservative Republicans) say climate scientists should have a major role in policy decisions related to the climate. 


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