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The 45th President of the United States Donald Trump and the teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg have never seen eye-to-eye. The former Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, who’s spoken about climate change to world leaders – at the World Economic Forum in Davos and the UN Climate Action Summit – has long challenged Trump’s position that climate change is mythical and nonexistent.
The two figures have publicly jibed at one another and spoken extensively about their perspectives on climate change – from up on podiums, behind the keyboard and during interviews. We compile their opposing stances in our first edition of Ghost Debates.
Thunberg: At first when I heard about climate change, I was a climate denier. I didn’t think it was happening. Because if there really was an existential crisis like that, that would threaten our civilization, we wouldn’t be focusing on anything else.
The climate crisis is, of course, only a symptom of a much larger crisis: a sustainability crisis, a social crisis. A crisis of inequality that dates back to colonialism and beyond. A crisis based on the idea that some people are worth more than others, and therefore have the right to exploit and steal peoples land and resources. It is very naive to believe that we can solve this crisis without confronting the roots of it.
Trump: I think there is some connectivity [between human activity and climate change]. There is some, something. It depends on how much. It also depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies.
When will our country stop wasting money on global warming and so many other truly “STUPID” things and begin to focus on lower taxes?
Thunberg: For way too long the politicians and people in power have got away with not doing anything at all to fight the climate crisis and ecological crisis. They have been ignored for decades. And for way too long, the politicians and people in power have gotten away with not doing anything at all.
Trump: Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!
They say, ‘Don’t use hair spray, it’s bad for the ozone.’ So I’m sitting in this concealed apartment, this concealed unit…It’s sealed, it’s beautiful. I don’t think anything gets out. And I’m not supposed to be using hair spray?
Thunberg: This ongoing irresponsible behavior will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind.
Climate change is not only a threat – it is, above all, an opportunity to create a healthier, greener and cleaner planet that will benefit all of us. We must seize this opportunity, we can achieve a win-win in both ecological conservation and high quality development.
Trump: I’m not a believer in man-made global warming. It could be warming, and it’s going to start to cool at some point. And you know, in the early, in the 1920s, people talked about global cooling…They thought the Earth was cooling. Now, it’s global warming. But the problem we have, and if you look at our energy costs, and all of the things that we’re doing to solve a problem that I don’t think in any major fashion exists.
Man, meaning us people, we do have an impact. But I don’t believe the impact is nearly what some say. We’ve certainly contributed – there are certain pollutants that go up; certain things that we do.
Thunberg: We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line.
Over fifty percent of all of C02 emissions have occurred since 1990 and a third since 2005.
Trump: I am not a believer, I believe there’s weather; I believe there’s change, and I believe it goes up and it goes down, and it goes up again. And it changes depending on years and centuries, but I am not a believer, and we have much bigger problems.
Thunberg: The emissions are still rising and the science doesn’t lie.
Trump: There is cooling and there is heating, and I mean, look: It used to not be climate change. It used to be global warming…That wasn’t working too well, because it was getting too cold all over the place.
Thunberg: The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you.
Trump: So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!
Thunberg: We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction. Our house is falling apart. Right now we are very much speeding in the wrong direction – 2021 is currently projected to experience the highest emission rise ever. Only about 2 percent of government recovery spending have been allocated to clean energy measures. According to a new report by the UN, global emissions are expected to rise by 16 percent by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. The people in power cannot claim that they are trying, because they are clearly not, as they continue opening up brand new coal mines, oil fields and pipelines.
Trump:… A very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!
Thunberg: Humanity is now standing at a crossroads.
Fighting climate changes calls for innovation, cooperation and willpower to make the changes that the world needs. When I say climate change, what do you think of?
Trump: Is there climate change? Yeah. Will it change back? Probably. That’s what I think.
Give me clean, beautiful and healthy air – not the same old climate change (global warming) bullshit! I am tired of hearing this nonsense.
Thunberg: When I think of climate change, I think of jobs: green jobs. We must mind a smooth transition towards a low-carbon economy. There is no planet B. There is no planet blah – blah, blah, blah.
Trump: We must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse.
Thunberg: The fact that the USA is leaving the Paris Accord seemed to outrage and worry everyone. And it should. We must now decide which path we want to take. How do we want the future living conditions for all living species to be like?
Trump: The badly flawed Paris Climate Agreement protects the polluters, hurts Americans, and costs a fortune. NOT ON MY WATCH!
The Paris Agreement isn’t working out so well for Paris. Protests and riots all over France. People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment. Chanting “We Want Trump!” Love France. I want clean air and clean water and have been making great strides in improving America’s environment. But American taxpayers – and American workers – shouldn’t pay to clean up other countries’ pollution.
Thunberg: Your inaction is fuelling the flames by the hour.
Trump: If somebody said, go back into the Paris Accord, it would have to be a completely different deal because we had a horrible deal. This agreement gives foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use right here in America.
Thunberg: You are failing us.
Trump: I know more about the environment than most people.
We are now the number one energy producer in the world and soon it will be by far with a couple of pipelines that have not been able to get approved for many years. It will have a huge impact. I was able to get to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska; it could be the largest site in the world for oil and gas. Ronald Reagan wasn’t able to do it; nobody was able to do it. It’s tremendous wealth.
Thunberg: Immediately half all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction. Immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels. We don’t want these things done by 2050, 2030 or even 2021, we want this done now.
Trump: LNG is being sought after all over Europe, and all over the world, and we have more of it than anybody else and I’m not going to lose that wealth. I’m not going to lose it on dreams – on windmills, which frankly aren’t working too well. I’m not going to lose it.
Thunberg: We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!
Trump: A strong economy is vital to maintaining a healthy environment.
Thunberg: We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and we need to focus on equity.
Trump: You wanna see a bird cemetery? Go under a windmill sometime. It’s the saddest – you’ve got every type of bird.
Thunberg: Hardly anyone speaks about equity or climate justice – clearly stated everywhere in the Paris Agreement – which is absolutely necessary to make it work on a global scale.
The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a fifty percent chance of staying below 1.5 degrees and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control. Fifty percent may be accessible to you, but those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops and additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution. A fifty percent risk is simply not acceptable to us – we who have to live with the consequences.
Trump: I’m pleased to report that the United States has among the cleanest air and drinking water on Earth.
Thunberg: The politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.
Trump: This is not a time for pessimism. This is a time for optimism.
We are on the threshold of virtually unlimited reserves of energy, including from traditional fuels, LNG, “clean coal”, next-generation nuclear power, and gas hydrate technologies.
Thunberg: How dare you pretend that this can be solved by business-as-usual and some technical solutions? To have a 67 percent chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees of global temperature rise – the best odds given by the IPCC – the world had 420 gigatons left to emit back on January 1st 2018. That figure is already down to 350 gigatons. With today’s emissions levels, that remaining C02 budget will be entirely gone within less than eight-and-a-half years. There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable and you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.
Trump: When we innovate, produce and grow, we’re able to unleash technologies and processes that make the environment better while reshoring productions – taking it away from foreign polluters and back to American soil.
Thunberg: They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.
Trump: The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.
This is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change. They burn everything you could burn; they couldn’t care less. They have very — you know, their standards are nothing. But they — in the meantime, they can undercut us on price. So it’s very hard on our business.
Thunberg: This is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced.
Trump: It’s really cold outside, they are calling it a major freeze, weeks ahead of normal. Man, we could use a big fat dose of global warming!
Thunberg: We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis…
Trump: It’s freezing in New York – where the hell is global warming?
With the coldest winter ever recorded, with snow setting record levels up and down the coast, the Nobel committee should take the Nobel Prize back from Al Gore…Gore wants us to clean up our factories and plants in order to protect us from global warming, when China and other countries couldn’t care less. It would make us totally noncompetitive in the manufacturing world, and China, Japan and India are laughing at America’s stupidity.
Thunberg: If solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then maybe we should change the system itself. Change is not only possible, but urgently necessary. You cannot solve a crisis that you do not fully understand; and you cannot balance a budget if you do not count all of the numbers. As long as we ignore equity and historic emissions, and as long as we don’t include consumption of important goods and the burning of biomass, and as long as clever counting is one of the most efficient ways of reducing emissions, we won’t get anywhere.
Trump: The United States will join the One-Trillion Trees Initiative…. One trillion trees.
Thunberg: Planting trees is good of course but it’s nowhere near enough. It cannot replace mitigation.
We’re not telling you to offset your emissions by paying someone else to plant trees in places like Africa, while at the same time forests like the Amazon are being slaughtered at an infinitely higher rate.
Trump: I’m an environmentalist. I am. I want the cleanest water on the planet. I want the cleanest air anywhere.
Thunberg: I’m sure the moment we start behaving as if we were in an emergency, we can avoid climate and ecological catastrophe.
Trump: Climate change is very important to me. I’ve done many environmental impact statements in my life, and I believe very strongly in very, very crystal clear clean water and clean air.
Thunberg: The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.
Trump: Our environmental numbers are very good.
Thunberg: We are totally failing to even reach targets that are completely insufficient in the first place.
Trump: Our numbers on air are tremendous.
Thunberg: Emissions keep growing.
Trump: We have to do something about other continents. We have to do something about other countries. Where we’re clean and beautiful and everything’s good, but you have another continent where the fumes are rising at levels you can’t believe. I mean, I think Greta needs to focus on those places. But we are doing better right now than we’ve ever done in terms of cleanliness; in terms of numbers.
Thunberg: There are no gray areas when it comes to survival. Either we go on as a civilization or we don’t.
Trump: We have a beautiful ocean called the Pacific Ocean where thousands and thousands of tons of garbage flows towards us, and that’s put there by other countries – so I think Greta has to start working on those other countries.
Thunberg: I wonder, what will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing the climate chaos you knowingly brought upon them?
Trump: The environment is very important to me. Someone wrote a book that I’m an environmentalist.
Thunberg: The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say – we will never forgive you.
Trump: We have now the lowest carbon. If you look at our numbers right now, we are doing phenomenally.
Thunberg: You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.
Trump: Punishing Americans is never the right way to produce a better environment or economy.
From day one my administration has made it a top priority to ensure that America has among the very cleanest air and cleanest water on the planet. We want crystal clean water and that’s what we’re doing.
Thunberg: I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic, I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as if you would in a crisis.
Trump: Fear and doubt is not a good thought process because this is a time for tremendous hope and joy and optimism and action.
The POLAR ICE CAPS are at an all time high, the POLAR BEAR population has never been stronger. Where the hell is global warming?
Thunberg: You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to.
Trump: I believe in clean air. Immaculate air. But I don’t believe in climate change. Record low temperatures and massive amounts of snow. Where the hell is GLOBAL WARMING?
Thunberg: The saddest thing is that most children are not even aware of the fate that awaits us.
Trump: If you go back and if you look at articles, they talked about global freezing, they talked about at some point the [planet could] freeze to death, then it’s going to die of heat exhaustion.
Thunberg: Young people are starting to understand your betrayal.
Trump: I mean, it’s a money-making industry, okay? It’s a hoax, a lot of it!
Thunberg: We deserve a safe future. And we demand a safe future. Is that really too much to ask? The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.
Humans are very adaptable: we can still fix this. But the opportunity to do so will not last for long.
Trump: I think climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax.
Thunberg: The world is waking up and change is coming – whether you like it or not.