In the children’s game “Telephone,” a message whispered from person to person becomes progressively distorted until the final version bears little resemblance to what was originally said. Media reporting of Donald Trump’s comments on climate change in his November 22 interview with the New York Times provided a real-world example of this.
In the interview, Times opinion columnist Thomas Friedman asked the president-elect:
Are you going to take America out of the world’s lead of confronting climate change?
I’m looking at it very closely. … I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully.
White House correspondent Michael Shear followed up:
Do you intend to, as you said, pull out of the Paris Climate [agreement]?
I’m going to take a look at it.
Then, the Times incorrectly reported this after the interview:
Despite the recent appointment to his transition team of a fierce critic of the Paris accords, Mr. Trump said that “I have an open mind to it.
The Times video summary of the interview showed a slightly less distorted, though still wrong, representation of Trump’s comments. No matter. In the second step of this game, London’s Guardian stretched the truth a bit further, claiming:
Donald Trump has said he has an “open mind” over U.S. involvement in the Paris agreement to combat climate change, after previously pledging to withdraw from the effort.
The wire service Reuters similarly erred:
Trump said … he was keeping an open mind on whether to pull out of a landmark international accord to fight climate change.
Germany’s international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle (DW), made much the same mistake. In the third step of the telephone game, prominent news magazine The Week deviated still further from reality, headlining their November 22 article:
Donald Trump changes his mind on climate change, Clinton, the press in meeting with The New York Times
The Week asserted that Trump’s new stance on the Paris Agreement is, “I have an open mind to it.” And so it continued across mainstream media, with The Independent (UK) newspaper reporting that Trump “indicated another important U-turn — this time in regard to climate.” The Australian then proclaimed: “Donald Trump backflips on prosecuting Hillary, climate change, Obama.”
Some commentators do not regard these as innocent mistakes.
Climate realist Marc Morano of the leading Washington, D.C.-based Climate Depot news site labeled the coverage “dishonest,” pointing out that the reporting “was not supported by the full transcript of the meeting.” Heartland Institute President Joe Bast agreed, adding:
The Left wants to drive wedges between Trump and his base by spinning anything he says as “retreating from campaign promises.” But expressing nuance and avoiding confrontation with determined foes who buy ink by the barrel is not retreating.
It was a false alarm. Trump has not backed off on his commitment to pull the U.S. out of the United Nations Paris Agreement on climate change.
Will he follow through? Or will he follow the pathetic example set by Stephen Harper, the former conservative prime minister of Canada, who campaigned against the climate scare but changed sides after being elected?
In a 2002 fundraising letter, Harper called the UN climate process “a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations.” Yet, after forming the government in 2006, he attempted (unsuccessfully) to appease activists and the media, and in the absence of significant pressure from conservatives, ended up supporting UN negotiations to “stop dangerous climate change.” He made greenhouse gas reduction pledges that Canada had no chance of keeping, wasting billions of dollars in the process.
Although it is understandable that Canadians would assume that Harper, a life-long conservative who had always opposed the climate scare, would not switch sides after attaining power, it would be naïve for Republicans to make the same mistake with Trump.
After all, until recently, President-elect Trump supported the climate scare. In 2009, he signed an open letter to Obama and Congress that stated:
Please don’t postpone the Earth. If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.
In 2014, Trump’s foundation gave $5,000 to Protect Our Winters, an Olympic snowboarder’s climate change activist group. According to Time magazine (May 23, 2016), the Trump International Hotel in Ireland cited “global warming and its effects” as a rationale for its permit application to construct a seawall beside its golf course.
Trump was a registered Democrat between 2001 to 2008, and is listed as a donor in the $100,000 to $250,000 category on the website of the Clinton Foundation — a group which lists climate change as its first “issue area.” Although most of his recent donations have been to the GOP, the Washington Post reported that, as of 2011, Trump had donated 54% of his $1.3 million political contributions to Democrats.
This is sensible business practice, Trump explains:
When they call, I give. And you know what, when I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me.
So Trump is clearly a pragmatist. If he believes that supporting climate alarmism works best for his administration — and rest assured, climate campaigners will do everything in their power to make his skepticism very uncomfortable — then Trump may simply change sides again.
Conservatives must therefore hold Trump’s feet to the fire on climate change and the Paris Agreement.
Republicans need to insist that the president-elect and his supporters cite highly reputable reports such as those of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change to demonstrate that much of what President Barack Obama and other world leaders are saying about climate science is wrong.
Otherwise, Trump may feel compelled to cooperate with activists and, like Harper and both presidents Bush, defect to climate alarmism. This would be a disaster for everyone who supported him in the election.