climate change

US 2020 election: Trump’s last cry of climate denial

Joe Biden and Donald Trump during the final US presidential debate. Photo credit: Reuters / Jim Bourg / Pool.

By Anders Lorenzen

While Joe Biden continues to cruise in the polls, and with more than 60 million Americans have already voted either by mail or early voting, and an estimated third of Americans have already decided, a desperate Trump continues to spread false news about climate change, wind power and the Paris Agreement.

In the final presidential debate held by NBC in Nashville, Tennessee, last week the moderator Kristen Welker was widely praised.  This time neither candidate was asked whether or not they believed in climate change but were asked what they would do to tackle it, and the two candidates clashed on that issue, as well as on the future of the oil industry.

Biden: climate change a serious risk

Biden described the serious threat presented by a planet heating up: “Global warming is an existential threat to humanity,” Biden said. “We have a moral obligation to deal with it and we’re told by all the leading scientists in the world we don’t have much time.” 

Trump argued that he loved the environment but could not cite anything his administration is doing to protect it other than a federal programme to plant a million trees.  He in fact said that he was not willing to sacrifice the economy to help the environment. He also falsely claimed that the Paris Agreement would put American jobs at risk which he cited as the main reason for quitting the Agreement. In fact, everything set out in the Paris Agreement is voluntary.

Tackle climate change while boosting the economy

Biden argued that it is possible both to transition to a more climate-friendly economy as well as create high-paying jobs and boost the US economy. The presidential hopeful wants oil eventually to be replaced with solar and other non-fossil fuel based power – a view that is accepted in most governments worldwide. But Trump accused Biden of wanting to destroy the oil industry. Biden clarified his position by stating: “I would transition from the oil industry, yes.”  In a desperate comeback, Trump tried to win support from Republican high oil-producing states: “He is going to destroy the oil industry. Will you remember that Texas? Will you remember that Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Ohio?”

Following the debate, Biden sought to clarify his energy policy which might not have pleased all environmentalists: “We’re not getting rid of fossil fuels. We’re getting off the subsidies for fossil fuels. But we’re not getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time … they’re not going to lose their jobs. Besides, a lot more jobs are going to be created in other alternatives.”

Trump’s wind power conspiracy theories

Wind power – the fast-growing clean energy technology has always angered Trump.  Prior to his presidency and during it, he has unsuccessfully sued the Scottish government for an offshore wind development close to his golf course near Aberdeen, Scotland. When Biden cited the opportunities of wind power Trump repeated false facts around wind power, saying it was too expensive. In fact, the cost of wind power has come down rapidly in the last decade, and in many countries, onshore wind power is the cheapest source of new energy generation even without subsidies.  And he stated one of his most remarkable theories yet saying that emissions from the fumes caused during construction are greater than with natural gas, though there has never been any evidence of this and the claim is unfounded.

Climate advocates would have been pleased that in this debate climate change was taken more seriously than in previous presidential debates, with Trump coming up shorthanded and with no solutions to deal with the climate crisis, a crisis he keeps telling his supporters is not real. On the other hand, Biden gives climate advocates hope that if he were to win the election on November the 3rd, the US will be back to take the climate change challenge seriously again. 

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