Donald Trump: stupid things he's said about the planet

Can you believe these quotes by Donald Trump? Let's analyse the stupid things Trump has said about melting ice caps, Chinese conspiracies and more.
  Published:  12 Jul 2018    |      Last updated:  30 May 2019    |      6 minute read

Climate-change denier Donald Trump isn't known for being rational or courteous. But these Trump quotes may still shock you.

Don't forget, this is a man who's in charge of a nation – a particularly influential one.

Donald Trump attending an event at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel, 2016
Try saying that with a straight face, Donald.
Credit: Michael Vadon

1. “The energy we produce in our country is cleaner [...] than our foreign competitors”

What did he mean?

Donald must be referring to the US's record of producing 18% of the nation's electricity generation from renewables in 2017.

What's the truth?

Let's not sniff at this, we don't want to be mean.

18% is a really good start Donald.

But let's look at how you could do better. In the UK, renewable energy produced 29.7% of electricity needs in 2017. And Morocco, where admittedly the sun does shine quite a lot, a whopping 35% of electricity generation was from renewables – mostly solar – in 2018.

Technology is improving constantly, and investment in renewables is increasing. There's a lot more the US can do to catch up with its competitors.

And the US can't claim to be a clean energy producer when it burns the amount of fossil fuels it does, including gas which Trump claims is clean, which leads us to...

2. "Under the green new deal, they don’t like clean, beautiful natural gas. The green new deal don’t know what they like."

What does he mean?

Campaigners for a Green New Deal want the world's biggest economy to switch to 100% renewables within 10 years. Is Donald Trump suggesting that ambitious plan could be improved – by using a planet-warming pollutant?

What's the truth?

The proponents of a Green New Deal do know what they like, and it isn't gas.

Claiming that gas is clean energy is ridiculous. Natural gas is a fossil fuel that when burnt releases substantial amounts of greenhouse gases. It contributes to climate change throughout its life cycle.

The production process of natural gas is also responsible for large amounts of methane emissions. Methane can leak out during this process (a gas with a very high global-warming potential).

3. "You wanna see a bird cemetery? Go under a windmill sometime. It’s the saddest – you’ve got every type of bird."

What does he mean?

Claims that large windmills used for electricity generation kill birds are common.

What's the truth?

It is true that birds die in collisions with wind turbines. But only a very small number – less than 0.01% of all human-related bird deaths in the United States.

What Donald forgot to mention is that oil and gas fields cause hundreds of thousands more bird deaths than wind farms – that’s according to a major study of bird mortality in the US.

Even the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) supports wind turbines – an actual bird charity – as long as they’re properly sited away from bird migratory routes. Wind-farm developers should contact the RSPB for advice.

4. “Our air right now is cleaner than it has ever been for our citizens.”

What does he mean?

This one was a bit of a challenge for our specialist campaign team.

In the end we have to hand it to Donald – he's right!

What's the truth?

Since 1990, air quality in the US has improved. And that's all thanks to clean air legislation introduced in 1970 which put emissions controls on motor vehicles, power plants and factories.

But... (Come on, of course there was a but!)

As a candidate, one of Donald Trump’s signature promises was to weaken air pollution rules on coal-fired power plants.

And sure enough, under Trump, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has dismantled Obama-era regulations on emissions from coal power plants and automobiles. They have also dismissed a scientific review panel that advised the EPA on air-pollution regulation.

Clean air is a hard won victory, so let's hope things don't actually start going backwards.

5. "It used to not be climate change. It used to be global warming. That wasn't working too well, 'cause it was getting too cold all over the place."

What did he mean?

It sounds like he's trying to discredit climate scientists by making them out to be devious. He also seems to be pooh-poohing average global temperature rises.

What's the truth?

Both climate change and global warming have been in use for ages. Both still exist.

Global warming refers to the planet heating up – caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases trapping heat by forming a blanket around the world. These gases build up in the atmosphere mainly due to humans burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, and cutting down forests.

Climate change is broader. It also covers the impacts of this warming such as sea level rises and more severe droughts, floods and storms.

It's hard to identify which planet Trump is referring to. But it can't be Earth. Because since the late 1800s the average surface temperature has risen – with most of that warming happening in the past 35 years.

We don't have much time left to stop runaway climate change. If you do one thing, please sign our petition to make sure the UK does its bit to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

6. "There is a cooling, and there's a heating."

What did he mean?

We think he's alluding to a common myth spread by climate change deniers. It goes something like, "The planet has warmed and cooled since time began. So climate change is natural; it isn't caused by humans".

What's the truth?

Cycles of cooling and warming have occurred throughout history. But they don't explain the current trend of rapid warming. To even hint they do is grossly misleading. 17 of the 18 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2001. The five warmest – all since 2010.

This much faster warming corresponds with increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since the industrial age. In other words, human beings have been changing the climate primarily by burning oil, coal and gas. But Donald knows that. He was part of a business coalition demanding meaningful action on "scientifically irrefutable" climate change back in 2009.

7. "The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records, OK? They’re at a record level."

What did he mean?

He appears to be implying that global warming can't be happening because the ice caps are growing to record levels.

What's the truth?

I hate to say it, but Donald's not been totally honest with us. He's thrown us a white lie – an ice white one.

Arctic sea ice is setting record levels. But no, it's not getting bigger. It's declining at record levels. Arctic sea ice reaches its minimum each September. The 10 lowest ice minimums have all been recorded since 2007.

Until recently, Antarctic sea ice has moderately grown for decades. And yes, it did set some record monthly highs a couple of years ago. But this Trump quote comes from the beginning of 2018 in an interview with Piers Morgan. At this time, Trump should have known that Antarctic sea ice had just shrunk to a record low.

We don't know of any credible source claiming the ice caps would have disappeared by now. We doubt Donald does either.

8. "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive."

What did he mean?

It's perhaps the most creative climate-change denial we've ever encountered. We're not making this up. It comes straight from his Twitter feed.

What's the truth?

Not that.

The vast majority of climate scientists agree that humans are causing the recent trend of rapid global warming. We're releasing climate-warming gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere primarily by burning fossil fuels.

We can thank Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius for alerting science to human-induced global warming. The Nobel prize winner investigated the effect that doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide would have on global climate. That was more than 100 years ago. In 1988 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established to understand the risk of human-induced climate change. Thousands of experts from around the world contribute to the IPCC's reports.

I guess the concept of gravity was made by and for birds in order to monopolise airspace. Right, Donald?

9. "It's really cold outside, they are calling it a major freeze, weeks ahead of normal. Man, we could use a big fat dose of global warming!"

What did he mean?

Here’s Donald pretending that he doesn’t understand the difference between weather and the climate. He's been using this tactic to mislead people that human-caused climate change isn't real.

What's the truth?

Sometimes it rains for days, but that doesn't mean we're living in a tropical wet climate like the Amazon rainforest. Cold weather spells can happen even as global average temperatures rise.

10. "If somebody said, go back into the Paris Accord, it would have to be a completely different deal because we had a horrible deal."

What did he mean?

Donald is pulling the US out of the Paris Accord – a global agreement to tackle climate change. The US will be the only country not signed up. He claims the deal takes advantage of America.

What's the truth?

The Paris Accord was signed by world leaders in 2015 to keep the global temperature rise well below 2°C. Why? To save lives, livelihoods and homes from sea level rises and extreme weather events like hurricanes, flooding and droughts.

The US is the second biggest emitter of planet-warming carbon dioxide. Yet the Paris Accord treats it exactly the same as the lowest – allowing the US to pledge whatever emission reductions it wants, without penalties for not meeting them. Trump says this is a bad deal. Perhaps the part he really objects to is that his more popular predecessor signed up to it?

Inadequate action on the Paris Accord means we're still on track for a catastrophic 3°C of global warming or more. Strong leaders will embrace the spirit of the agreement and make deep cuts to their greenhouse gas emissions. Weaker ones will do nothing.