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Fact-Checking Trump’s Speech on the Environment

July 9, 2019, 5:25 PM UTC

President Donald Trump gave a speech at the White House Monday about the administration’s environmental record, much to the consternation of environmental experts and the nearly 200 countries signed on to the Paris Agreement, the 2015 accord to curb carbon emissions and contain global warming.

The speech was rife with factual errors, but to the broader point, it was unclear to whom the president was speaking, given that environmental and climate change issues are not a priority for his base in the 2020 election nor would those who consider it one believe any of the claims the president made.

Dan Lashof, the U.S. Director of Washington, D.C., think tank World Resources Institute, said in a statement: “It must be opposite day at the White House if President Trump is dubbing himself an environmental leader.”

Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, called the speech a “joke” and likened it to “an arsonist talking about how valuable his work is to the fire department.” Even Fox News, which is usually more supportive of the president’s rhetoric, cut the broadcast off in order to fact check the speech.

To many, it was notable that Trump did not once use the phrase “climate change,” not even to call it a “hoax” as he has done so many times in the past.  However, he did refer to the Green New Deal, a policy proposal by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to overhaul the U.S. economy to focus more on green jobs and renewable energy.

However, the president was incorrect when he said the plan “is estimated to cost our economy nearly $100 trillion, a number unthinkable, a number not affordable even in the best of times.”

That figure is likely based on the $93 trillion estimate provided by the American Action Forum, a right-leaning group.  The group admitted the proposal in its current state is vague, only existing as a resolution at the moment, and so wide-ranging it is difficult to estimate costs accurately.

Trump was correct in pointing out U.S. carbon emissions are “projected to drop in 2019 and 2020″ and the clean energy sector is growing, but Lashof said all of this is “in spite of President Trump’s policies, certainly not because of them. Since taking office, President Trump has appointed foxes to guard the environmental hen house.”

It should also be noted that though there has been a decline in emissions, the U.S. is still one of the largest overall producers of carbon emissions, so Trump saying the U.S. leads countries who are still in the Paris Agreement in emissions reductions does not mean much given the context.

Once again, the president pointed out how “unfair” the accord was to American workers but failed to note the withdrawal process would not be complete until just a few days before the 2020 election per United Nations rules.

Trump’s surrogates who also spoke to tout the president’s record did not do the White House any favors in terms of factual accuracy either. Head of the U.S. Department of Energy and former Texas Governor Rick Perry claimed the U.S. has become “the number one producer of oil and gas in the world” because of Trump.

Though that part is true, the status is due to increased fracking, opening public lands to drilling, removing limits on methane emissions—none of which makes sense to promote as being “good stewards” of the environment as the president claimed to be in the speech.

Several other claims were made about California’s forest management after the state experienced devastating wildfires in recent years and has been openly at odds with the Trump administration. The president also failed to mention his administration’s systematic repeal of several regulations, including the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

The plan was called a “game changer” by the Union of Concerned Scientists because 40% of the country’s carbon emissions come from power plants and if it had not been repealed it would have reduced power plants’ emissions by 2030, to a level 32% lower than they were in 2005.

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