President Trump said climate activists were out-of-touch ‘alarmists’ and the ‘heirs of yesterday’s fortune tellers’ during his appearance at the World Economic Forum, as prominent climate activist Greta Thunberg looked on.
‘This is not a time for pessimism. This is a time for optimism,’ Trump said in Davos, Switzerland Tuesday, in stark constrast to Thunberg and others, who used the conference to warn that the Australian wildfires and other disasters were only the beginning of the climate chaos that lie ahead.
To ’embrace the possibilities of tomorrow,’ Trump said, ‘we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse.’
‘They are the heirs of yesterday’s fortune tellers,’ Trump stated. ‘They predicted an over-population crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the 70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s.’
‘These alarmists always demand the same thing – absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives,’ Trump continued. ‘We will never let radical socialists destroy our economy, wreck our country or eradicate our liberty.’
The bulk of Trump’s speech was touting the American economy under his leadership, a curtain-raiser as he works more seriously toward his re-election bid. Tuesday’s speech was also counter-programming with the Senate beginning its impeachment trial of Trump. House Democrats will start making their case as Trump meets with world leaders.
‘America’s thriving, America’s flourishing, and yes America is winning again like never before,’ Trump told the crowd.
His appearance began and ended with polite applause.
He boasted of the ‘blue collar boom’ he had brought on, while touting the two trade deals he signed last week, comparing his record to the ‘rather dismal state’ of the economy under his predecessor, President Obama.
And while he snarked at climate activists, he did announce that the U.S. would join the ‘One Trillion Trees’ initiative taking root at the conference.
Trump’s arrival in Switzerland early Tuesday morning created a splitscreen moment as Thunberg was making her first of two appearances of the day.
‘We are all fighting for the environment and climate. If you see it from a bigger perspective, basically nothing has been done. It will require much more than this. This is just the very beginning,’ Thunberg said during an early morning panel discussion. ‘I’m not a person that can complain about not being heard,’ Thunberg also said at the event, cueing laughs.
Later, Thunberg gave a more traditional address.
‘One year ago, I said I wanted you to panic,’ she said. ‘I’ve been warned that telling people to panic about the climate crisis is a very dangerous thing to do.’
‘Don’t worry, it’s fine, trust me, I’ve done this before and it doesn’t lead to anything,’ again blasting leaders for not enough action.
In her remarks, Thunberg also noted that while ‘planting trees is good, of course’ it’s ‘nowhere good enough to what is needed.’
Her remarks were in line with what World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab said at the beginning of Tuesday’s programming, as he and Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga took the stage before Trump.
‘The world is in a state of emergency and to not act is crazy,’ Schwab said. ‘The world is on fire,’ is how Sommaruga greeted participants.
Trump has done the opposite of making climate change a priority during his three-year presidency.
Early on, he pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, while he’s deregulated domestic oil and gas. In the past, he’s called climate change a Chinese ‘hoax,’ though he’s also touted to supporters that he’s an environmentalist because he cares about clean air and clean water.
Over the past few months, Trump has made Thunberg a target on Twitter.
Last month, Trump reacted to the teenager being named Time magazine’s 2019 ‘Person of the Year’ by mocking her serious demeanor.
Trump shared a congratulatory tweet about Thunberg’s win from actress Roma Downey.
‘So ridiculous,’ the president responded. ‘Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!’
Thunberg responded by briefly changing her Twitter bio to read: ‘A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.’
Trump had also weighed in September after Thunberg made a passionate plea to world leaders during the United Nations General Assembly to do something about the warming earth.
‘I shouldn’t be up here,’ Thunberg said at the time. ‘I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope? How dare you!’ she exclaimed.
Trump then tweeted a video of Thunberg’s speech. ‘People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth,’ Thunberg had said.
‘She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!’ Trump said sarcastically.
Thunberg changed her Twitter bio then as well, calling herself ‘a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.’
However Thunberg’s expression when she saw Trump entering the U.N. the day she gave her speech was not-so-happy.
The stink eye Thunberg gave the American president went viral online.
Trump has gotten a mixed reaction on the world stage, including at Davos.
His criticism of the media during his 2018 appearance elicited a mix of boos and groans from the audience.
Several months later, during an appearance at the United Nations General Assembly – the gathering where he ran into Thunberg a year later – members of the audience, which included heads of state, laughed out loud at Trump’s bombast.
‘In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than any administration in the history of out country,’ Trump touted to laughter.
‘So true,’ he added. ‘Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK.’
And then there was the incident at the NATO summit where Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was caught on hot mic discussing Trump’s behavior at the summit.
Trudeau was describing to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanual Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte how Trump essentially holds a press conference before his bilateral meetings with world leaders. The group was seen having a laugh.
Trump called the Canadian PM’s behavior ‘two-faced.’ Trudeau fessed up to it.
‘Last night I made reference to the fact that there was an unscheduled press conference before my meeting with President Trump. I was happy to be part of it but it was certainly notable,’ Trudea said in a press conference the next day.
The moment inspired a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit that featured actor Paul Rudd as Macron and Jimmy Fallon as Trudeau, who bully Trump – played by Alec Baldwin – in the U.N. cafeteria – and ask Kate McKinnon’s Angela Merkel to sit with them instead.
The incident also called back to the video shared by the Frech government that showed Ivanka Trump being snubbed by leaders including Macron, Christine Lagarde, who now serves as the president of the European Central Bank, and then-U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.
As the first daughter tries to engage in the discussion, talking excitedly with her hands, she’s largely ignored, the video clip from the July G-20 showed.
Both Trumps are heading to Davos.
Merkel and Lagarde will also be on hand.
Ivanka Trump is a member of the seven-person delegation announced to represent the U.S. at Davos before even the president committed to attend.
She tweeted about her participation Monday.
‘Headed to Davos to call on the world’s largest employers to sign our #PledgetoAmericasWorkers and join us in unleashing the potential of our people and accelerating the historic wave of opportunity, wage growth and job creation in the United States,’ Ivanka Trump wrote.
The president can use the opportunity to steer heads away from the Senate impeachment trial, which will kick off in the hours following his Davos speech.
Trump is also due to host a dinner and will participate in several bilateral meetings with leaders during his two-day stay in Switzerland.
He’ll have the benefit of not having an awkward run-in with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who dropped out Monday.
The Iranians are blaming organizers who they claim ‘abruptly changed its agenda’ for the summit.
Trump has taken a victory lap for the American drone strike in Iraq that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, a move that brought the countries to the brink of war.
And while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is attending the conference, he wasn’t on the list of leaders Trump planned to meet.
At the summit Trump will, however, be meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih and Nechirvan Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government – two important meetings that could impact America’s future in the Middle East.
The White House also announced Monday that Trump would sit down with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Schwab.