Trump’s Meeting With Al Gore Gives Environmental Activists Hope

Source: By CORAL DAVENPORT, New York Times • Posted: Wednesday, December 7, 2016

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump, who has called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, met on Monday with the climate-activist extraordinaire Al Gore, offering environmental activists a glimmer of hope that the Trump administration’s policies will moderate from his campaign pledges to scrap all efforts to stem the warming of the planet.

But even as the president-elect was sitting down with the former vice president, his transition team continued to court ardent opponents of climate control policies to fill key posts in the government. Many transition officials question or deny the established science of human-caused climate change and have worked aggressively to undo President Obama’s climate change policies.

Mr. Gore, who starred in the Academy Award-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” projected optimism in the lobby of Trump Tower, telling reporters that his meeting with Mr. Trump was “lengthy and very productive,” and calling it “a sincere search for areas of common ground.”

“I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued,” he said.

Environmental activists looking for straws to grasp pointed to Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who met separately with Mr. Gore on Monday and who is reportedly seeking to use her platform as first daughter to speak out on climate change.

Ms. Trump has also met recently with the movie star and environmental advocate Leonardo DiCaprio, who gave her a copy of his documentary “Before the Flood,” which warns of the perils of climate change.

But as celebrities parade into Ms. Trump’s offices, a different cast is preparing to populate the government. Overseeing the transition at the Environmental Protection Agency is Myron Ebell, an internationally prominent skeptic of climate science and opponent of climate policy who directs environmental and energy policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a business advocacy group in Washington partially funded by the coal industry.

Among Mr. Trump’s current top candidates for E.P.A. administrator are Jeffrey Holmstead, a lead lawyer representing states and fossil fuel companies suing to overturn Mr. Obama’s climate change regulations; Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma, who has been a key architect of that legal fight; and Kathleen Hartnett White, the director of a Texas think tank who served as a top environmental official under the former Texas governors Rick Perry and George W. Bush. Ms. White has denounced “global warming alarmism” and called last year’s international Paris Agreement on climate change a “tragedy.”

Among the leading candidates for Mr. Trump’s interior secretary is Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, an enthusiastic supporter of oil and gas drilling and a fierce opponent of climate change policy. Ms. Fallin was the first governor to announce that she would refuse to enact the Obama administration’s climate-change regulations. She signed an executive order that barred Oklahoma’s state agencies from submitting a compliance plan for the rules.

“There is a huge disconnect between where she appears to be and what’s happening here in Washington,” Carol Browner, a former climate change adviser to President Obama, said of Ms. Trump. “She appears to be a lone voice on this — although she’s an important voice. But her concern for climate is certainly not reflected in the people he appears to be thinking about.”

Carl Paladino, the New York State co-chairman of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign and an outspoken conservative, said on Monday that he was unconcerned by Mr. Gore’s visit.

“You know, if we’re going through climate change, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was man-made. Climate change may be a natural thing,” he told reporters at Trump Tower not long after Mr. Gore left the building. “Our world goes in cycles.”

On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump vowed to “cancel” the Paris climate change accord committing nearly every country on earth to take action to combat climate change, and to undo the Clean Power Plan, Mr. Obama’s signature climate change policy. He pledged to “get rid of” the E.P.A., which is charged with carrying the climate change rules.

Still, as he has done on many other issues, including abortion and support for United States invasion of Iraq, Mr. Trump has demonstrated an occasional flexibility on his climate positions. In 2009, Mr. Trump and three of his children — Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric — joined dozens of other business leaders in signing on to a letter published as an advertisement in The New York Times ahead of a United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen, urging Mr. Obama and Congress to enact “meaningful” climate legislation.

Beyond that letter, there is almost no public record of Ms. Trump’s views on climate change. In May 2008, she co-hosted an awards gala at the United Nations co-sponsored by a group called Friends of Climate Change.

But in 2010, she wrote a Twitter post echoing remarks of Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee — and Congress’s most prominent denier of climate change.

“Ironic tidbit of the day … Senate global warming hearing canceled due to the blizzard,” Ms. Trump wrote, linking to the Senate Environment Committee’s webpage. Mr. Inhofe has often cited the occurrence of blizzards as evidence that human-caused climate change is not occurring.