Trump changes tune on climate: Will he stay true to his most recent remarks?

After calling climate change a 'hoax' during the campaign, the president-elect said there is 'some connectivity' on climate change and human activity. 

Evan Vucci/AP
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with local farmers at Bedners Farm Fresh Market in Boynton Beach, Fla., on Oct. 24, 2016.

During his bid for president, President-elect Donald Trump claimed climate change was a hoax fabricated by the Chinese and vowed to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and to stop US payments to United Nations global warming programs.

Now that he has been elected, Mr. Trump is open to upholding the international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases.

“I’m looking very closely at it. I have an open mind to it,” the president-elect told The New York Times in an hour-long question-and-answer Tuesday. On the link between human activity and climate change, he said, “I think there is some connectivity ... it depends on how much.”

Trump’s position on climate change and the Paris agreement are one of numerous hard-line policies he has appeared to soften since his Nov. 8 election victory. From the prosecution of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, to waterboarding, to the construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border, Trump has shown a willingness since the election to entertain more moderate policies. But he also has a habit of making statements inconsistent with previous ones.

According to one of numerous Times reporters that posted tweets during the interview Tuesday, Trump was weighing climate change and American competitiveness and “how much it will cost our companies.”

This remark caught two people on Trump’s transition team on energy and environment issues off guard, they told Reuters after the meeting. That’s because Trump has repeatedly called climate change a hoax.

In 2012, he tweeted that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.” He followed that up with a 2014 tweet: “global warming is an expensive hoax.”

As climate change denier-in-chief, Trump could threaten international efforts to limit rising temperatures. Climate change and policy experts had warned that if the United States, the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China, were to not live up to the Paris agreement, other nations might follow suit. Scientists then warned that temperatures linked to the extinctions of animals and plants, heat waves, floods, and rising sea levels would increase.

But as The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty wrote Tuesday, “Trump assumed a more cordial, magnanimous posture than he has in recent days.”

Over the weekend, he used his Twitter account to attack the comedy of “Saturday Night Live” and the cast of the hit Broadway show “Hamilton.” On Monday, he upbraided broadcast news executives and on-air journalists in an off-the-record session that quickly leaked to other media. 

In the interview with the Times Tuesday, Trump also showed a lack of interest in prosecuting of Mrs. Clinton over her use of a private email server or her family’s charitable foundation.

“I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t. She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways,” he told Times reporters, editors, and other newspaper officials.

He did, however, say “no” when asked if he would rule out investigating Clinton.

In the days after he was elected president, Trump also said the wall he promised to build along the US-Mexico border could actually be part fence.

Such softening of positions could upset some of Trump’s most ardent supporters. Breitbart, the conservative news outlet once led by Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, published a story Tuesday under the headline, “Broken Promise: Trump ‘Doesn’t Wish to Pursue’ Clinton email charges.”

A relaxing of his more hard-line policies is not unlike the actions of Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R). In his 2010 and 2014 campaigns, Mr. Scott also opposed the Republican establishment, promised to crack down on immigration, and vowed to battle Washington. In his two terms as governor, Scott has kept 35 percent of his campaign promises, according to PolitiFact Florida. He failed to enact tougher penalties for violating environmental regulations, but is in the process of improving the state’s education system.

Of course, the president-elect has a record of making statements that are inconsistent with his previous ones, as the Post’s Ms. Tumulty writes. He could yet back off his Tuesday remarks after inauguration Jan. 20, or even in the coming days.

This report contains material from the Associate Press and Reuters.

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