President-elect Donald Trump seemed to reverse his feelings about climate change this afternoon during a sit-down meeting with journalists of the New York Times, admitting he thinks there may be a link between humans and warming temperatures. He said he is keeping an “open mind” about it, and added that he thinks “clean air is vitally important,” according to Times reporters who tweeted during the meeting.
"Clean air is vitally important," Trump says about climate change. Says he is keeping "an open mind."— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 22, 2016
Does Trump think human activity is linked to climate change? “I think there is some connectivity. Some, something. It depends on how much."— Mike Grynbaum (@grynbaum) November 22, 2016
If Trump actually ends up believing the science behind climate change, it would differ greatly from a position he has stated on the record — that it’s a Chinese hoax. He’s been very vocal about his denial of human-made climate change before, and since his win on Election Day, he has made moves that reflect this attitude. Trump put Myron Ebell, a renowned climate change skeptic, as head of the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency. And Trump has said that he plans to remove regulations on coal, oil, and gas companies during his first 100 days in office, seemingly referring to the laws that Obama put in place to restrict greenhouse gas emissions.
During today’s meeting, Trump reiterated that he is still worried how climate change measures will affect companies in the United States.
On climate change, Trump says he is also thinking about "how much it will cost our companies” & the effect on American competitiveness.— Mike Grynbaum (@grynbaum) November 22, 2016
Trump has also talked before of his intentions to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate change agreement — a plan ratified by 112 countries aimed at keeping the global average temperature from increasing by 2 degrees Celsius. However, Trump also backed down on that claim today, saying he is looking at the Paris climate change accords “closely.”
Tom Friedman asks if Trump will withdraw from climate change accords. Trump: “I’m looking at it very closely. I have an open mind to it."— Mike Grynbaum (@grynbaum) November 22, 2016
Even if Trump did decided to renege on the Paris agreement, it would take four years to officially withdraw the US from the accords. However, Trump could also choose to simply not enforce the guidelines set out by the Paris agreement, which center around limiting greenhouse gas emissions. But that would mean the US would be breaking international law. Another possibility is to withdraw the US entirely from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the group of nations that agreed to the accords. That would only take one year instead of four, according to Scientific American.
But if Trump is keeping an open mind like he says he is, then it’s unclear if the United States is withdrawing from any agreements just yet. However, the Sierra Club, an environmental protection organization, offered the following statement in response to Trump’s comments:
“Talk is cheap, and no one should believe Donald Trump means this until he acts upon it. We’re waiting for action, and Trump is kidding nobody on climate as he simultaneously stacks his transition team and cabinet with climate science deniers and the dirtiest hacks the fossil fuel industry can offer. Prove it, President-elect. The world is watching.”
Updated November 22nd 3:15PM ET: This article has been updated to include comments from the Sierra Club.