"It'll start getting cooler, you just watch."
"Trump is offering only conspiracy theories and weak excuses at a time when the planet desperately needs coherent American leadership on climate. He is unfit to lead."
—Kristin Urquiza, climate activistThat is what President Donald Trump said during a televised summit in California Monday afternoon focused on the catastrophic wildfires ripping through the state and other regions of the western United States.
Trump—a notorious denier of climate science and the global consensus that human activity and fossil fuel emissions are driving planetary heating—made the comment after being repeatedly pressed to acknowledge the manner in which extreme weather caused by global warming is a major factor in the wildfires that have burned millions of acres and claimed at least 33 lives in recent weeks.
The exchange during the event was between Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, and the president.
Watch this California official challenge Trump to recognize the changing climate — and the president deny science right to his face pic.twitter.com/5BcBrTv3dJ
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) September 14, 2020
"The [climate] science is going to be key," Crowfoot told Trump. "Because if we ignore that science and kind of put our head in the sand and say that it's all about vegetation management, we're not going to succeed together protecting Californians."
"It'll start getting cooler, you just watch," Trump said in response.
"I wish science agreed with you," Crowfoot responded. And then Trump added, "I don't think science knows, actually"—before quickly moving onto another person in the meeting.
Prior to the exchange with Crowfoot, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, also broached the climate connection with Trump.
Quite an interaction between President Trump and California Gov. Gavin Newsom just now. pic.twitter.com/b0k0KPQmcm
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) September 14, 2020
As Common Dreams reported earlier Monday, a new comprehensive study—which relied on an analysis of tens of millions of years of atmospheric records trapped in layers of the earth's subsurface—found that the world is currently on track to hit a warming threshold it has not witnessed in more than 34 million years. Meanwhile, expert after expert has confirmed that the unprecedented wildfires raging across the west are exactly what climate scientists have been warning about for years.
Kristin Urquiza, a climate activist from San Francisco whose father Mark Urquiza died from Covid-19 after trusting the president's advice that the virus was not that dangerous, said Trump's anti-science positions have been proven fatal as she reacted angrily his comments Monday.
"Trump continues to lie about the deadly threat of climate change just as he repeatedly lied to the American public about the threat of Covid-19," Urquiza said in a statement. "His self-serving agenda exacerbates the severity of the major crises we are facing: the climate crisis, the racial justice crisis, and the Covid-19 crisis."
"The result?" she asked. "Hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths and significant threats to our national security. The link between these fires and climate change is straightforward and uncontroversial—unless you're President Trump. Just as we've seen him do with the Covid-19 pandemic, President Trump will deny science if it allows him to blame someone else for his failures. The hard reality is that climate change is a clear and present danger not just in California, where climate-driven fires are consuming entire communities and filling the skies with toxic haze, but around the world. From the Amazon to Southeast Asia to the U.S., forest fires are raging, pumping more CO2 into an overburdened atmosphere. Too many of these fires are man-made, encouraged by corporations that till the ashes for profit."
Trump, she concluded, "is offering only conspiracy theories and weak excuses at a time when the planet desperately needs coherent American leadership on climate. He is unfit to lead."
In a column on Monday, economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich described Trump as the most anti-environmental president in the nation's history—an objectively high bar. Reich wrote:
The West is burning. Wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington are incinerating homes, killing scores of people, sickening many others, causing hundreds of thousands to evacuate, burning entire towns to the ground, consuming millions of acres, and blanketing the western third of the United States with thick, acrid ,and dangerous smoke.
Yet the president has said and done almost nothing. He's in California today for a quick photo-op, and then high-tails back to Washington (or is it Mar-a-Lago?) as fast as he can.
After sharing the video of the exchange online, Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org who now runs Fossil Free Media, said: "I thought I'd find it funny watching this, but instead it's just chilling: as the West Coast faces a climate catastrophe, the president laughs at them and denies the problem exists."