1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Donald Trump's environment fallacies

August 7, 2018

The US president's attempt to blame the largest wildfire in California history on a failure to cut down trees — like his claim that climate change is a Chinese hoax — is falling flat as a heat wave grips the planet.

USA Trump zum Pariser Klimaabkommen
Image: Reuters/K. Lamarque

Long before he withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement, US President Donald Trump had a long history of tweeting about weather extremes and denying there was any link to climate change.

But as California suffers from the largest ever-recorded wildfire that has so far claimed seven lives — and Europe swelters amid record high temperatures while devastating fires also swept Greece — the president may have overstepped on his misstatements. 

Trump's Monday morning tweet elicited a passionate response, including from California state congressman Ted Lieu, who wasted no time in partly linking the increase in wildfires to climate change in his state.

This tweet from a volcanologist and "champion of evidence-based policymaking" also challenged Trump's claim that the problem was the draining of water into the Pacific.

Democratic party Senator Edward J. Markey, who covers energy, the environment and climate policy, was quick to say that Trump was trying to divert attention from the key issue:

"Donald Trump can try to change the topic, but he won't be able to divert our attention away from the fact that the hotter, drier weather magnifying the California wildfires is linked to climate change. And it will keep getting worse as long as we fail to act."

Read more: Four climate change myths, debunked

"The notion that somehow more water would be mitigating or better in fighting these fires is just mind-boggling,'' Rob Stutzman, a Republican advisor to former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger told Politico — the publication further stressed that firefighters have not complained about water availability.

Politico further reported that Trump's response might have been influenced by Californian Republicans who have long wanted rivers and streams that maintain fish species and fragile ecosystems to flow, not naturally into the sea, but onto agricultural lands instead. 

Trump's climate change denial — a brief history

Since taking office in January 2017, Trump and his former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt have been hell-bent on rolling back every Obama-era environmental regulation in existence, from the Paris climate agreement to emission standards for cars. 

Read more: Trump's lasting damage to the environment

Trump's most recent environmental fallacy is the fruition of a climate change-denying tweetstorm that Trump has been engaging in since 2011 — even if, back in the day, such tweets from the former reality TV host generated a lot more negative comments — and got a lot less attention overall.

But Trump's views on climate change became especially infamous in 2012, when he claimed that climate change was a Chinese hoax created, apparently, to win a trade war.

In June 2013, then-president Barack Obama committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a series of executive actions that would attempt to future proof the planet against climate change.  

A day later, Trump took aim at the president, and echoed his earlier conspiracy that the nefarious Chinese would ultimately benefit.

This is despite the fact that China has been a staunch supporter of the Paris climate agreement and has to some extent succeeded in reducing its CO2 emissions.

Lower taxes for the rich will save the environment, Trump said in 2014 — a slogan he's kept to.

How that's supposed to work, is unclear.

And then New Year's Eve last, as America's east coast suffered deep cold from a climate change-induced polar vortex, Trump tweeted this:

Busting climate myths

Planting trees to combat Trump's climate denial

Now, a tree-planting startup has proactively responded to Trump's tweets by allowing people to buy a tree or give it as a gift online — and even track its progress as it grows. 

Bacho Khachidze co-founded Treespond as a response to frustration with Trump's brand of climate change denial.

"It's normal to get angry when people with power spread false information about a problem that needs urgent attention, their words can do real damage," he said in a statement.

"But we wanted to provide people with something actionable they could do that wasn't, like, screaming back." 

Read more: Climate change — 'Fake news,' real fallout

The Treespond campaign targets Donald Trump because he's "one of the biggest climate deniers with THE biggest media stage," referring to Trump's outsized media coverage.

Keep in mind, this is a separate initiative from Trump Forest, another tree-planting initiative founded by two guys in New Zealand.

The Treespond site has posted every Trump tweet about environmental issues, from "we need some global warming, it's freezing," to "I want to use hair spray. They say don't use hair spray, it's bad for the ozone." Each tweet is rated according to an "ignorance scale."

"The more ignorant the phrase is, the more trees must be planted to eliminate the quote," says the Treespond site.

It is perhaps serendipitous that the trees will planted in national forests across California that continue to be devastated by wildfires.

Treespond intends to plant 1 million trees to eliminate Trump's latest ignorance regarding extreme weather in California.

Stuart Braun | DW Reporter
Stuart Braun Berlin-based journalist with a focus on climate and culture.