Donald Trump offered a new explanation this week on why he believes climate change is a hoax. Past explanations have included blaming China for making up climate change for their benefit. But that was before being nominated for President. So what's his position today?
Speaking with Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, Trump gave an updated account of why he thinks global warming is a hoax.
O'REILLY: Did you ever call climate change a hoax?
TRUMP: Well, I might have because when I look at some of the things that are going on, in fact if you look at Europe where they had their big summit a couple of years ago, where people were sending out emails, scientists practically calling it a hoax and they were laughing at it. So, yeah, I probably did. I see what's going on and you see what's going on.
The Discredited ClimateGate Conspiracy Theory
Trump appears to be referring here to the illegal hacking of scientists' emails in 2009, which climate skeptics gleefully dubbed "ClimateGate." These conspiracy theories have been thoroughly debunked (see for example FactCheck.org , Union of Concerned Scientists, and Politifact). After the emails were released, every investigative report -- from the National Science Foundation Inspector General, NOAA's Inspector General, Penn State University, University of East Anglica, and the UK Parliament -- reached the same conclusion: nothing in the emails in any way altered the overwhelming scientific evidence that the world is warming due to increased levels of pollution.
Illegal Hacking Timed to Disrupt Climate Talks
Despite the thorough debunking of these attacks on scientists, the conspiracy theories gained traction in the media and, as Trump demonstrates, remain a convenient go-to point for skeptics today. The hacked emails were mysteriously dumped in 2009 on a server in Russia at an optimally timed moment as President Obama and world leaders were preparing to head to Copenhagen forge a new global climate agreement. The scientific community was instantly judged guilty in kangaroo courts led by Fox News and other media outlets who chased the story before investigating the facts. Fox News' Sean Hannity helped lead the charge, declaring:
HANNITY (2009): "it is safe to say that ClimateGate has revealed that global warming and that movement is run by hacks and frauds."
Fast forward to 2016
Today, NASA says there is a 99 percent chance that 2016 will be the hottest year on record, following the previous record set just last year. Three-quarters of Americans understand that the world is warming, which is creating a tough challenge for thoughtful Republicans who are caught between voters and a nominee who denies the problem.
Given his past statements, nobody should be surprised that Trump is dismissive of climate change. But endorsing the ClimateGate conspiracy theory years after it has been discredited should be alarming not only for the scientists he is ridiculing, but also for anyone who wants to make sure we leave a healthy planet for future generations.