Donald Trump speaks about the environment, White House East Room, July 8, 2019


Trying to boost his popularity with key groups for re-election in 2020, Donald Trump puts out high-profile lies about his record on the environment.

For almost an hour in the White House East Room on Monday, Trump — a climate change denier who has stripped environmental regulations and withdrawn the US from the Paris Accord on climate change — proclaimed his command of “America’s environmental leadership”.

Trump was flanked by cabinet members and officials who included former lobbyists for the coal and oil industry as he announced that his Administration was good stewards of our public land”, reducing carbon emissions and promoting the “cleanest air” and “crystal clean” water.

Trump did not mention climate change. Nor did he refer to his opening of public lands to drilling, including the largest withdrawal of federal land protection in US history and removal of a moratorium on coal mining leases. Also ignored was the order to the Environmental Protection Agency to strike Obama-era regulation of pollution in streams and wetlands.

Calling himself the champion of the oceans, Trump said he promoted policies to reduce marine debris such as plastic drinking straws. He left out Administration proposals to open the entire US coastline to offshore oil and gas drilling.

David Victor, the director of the Laboratory on International Law and Regulation, summarized, “This speech is a true ‘1984’ moment.”

Trump also claimed that carbon dioxide emissions in the US have gone down over the past decade, “more than any other country on earth”. While American emissions have declined by more than 10% — largely due to Obama-era regulations — other countries, including most of the European Union, have reduced emissions by more than 20%.

Last month, the EPA completed the plan to replace President Barack Obama’s stringent rule on coal pollution, allowed coal-fired plants to stay open longer. This summer the EPA is expected to abandon Obama’s regulations on tailpipe pollution in automobiles.

The Emperor in Green Clothes

Trump’s speech was prompted by campaign consultants who assessed that his environmental record was restricting his support among millennials and suburban women. And that was his record on the environment.

A “senior administration official” said the polling indicated that “moderate voters” who liked Trump’s stance on the economy “just want to know that he’s being responsible” on environmental issues.

But the speech was so incongruous with the Administration’s policies and Trump’s past statements that observers questioned its effect. Trump delivered his lines alongside EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who has led the rollback of regulations on climate change and clean air, and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist who has overseen the opening up of public lands and waters to drilling.

Asked if Trump still believes that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese and that windmills cause cancer, Wheeler said in a phone call that there were “positives and negatives” to all energy sources.

Even Trump seemed less than committed to his performance on Monday. Unusually for one of his public statements, he made no mention of it on Twitter and posted no video.