In Trump’s first year in office, he expressed skepticism toward climate change. In a tweet on December 28th, 2017, he suggested that global warming is a conspiracy after a day of cold weather. This tactic has been used before, most notably by Senator James Inhofe from Oklahoma. In February of 2015, he brought a snowball in to the Senate as proof that the Earth was not warming. On May 31st 2017, President Trump announced that the United States was to leave the Paris Climate Accords. The Paris Climate Accords intention is to slow increases in global temperatures by gradually reducing man-made emissions. 195 countries signed the accords. President Trump said in his remarks on the topic that the other countries in the agreement “were so happy" when the U.S. joined the accord, because “it put our country, the United States of America which we all love, in a very, very big economic disadvantage.” He maintains that he removed the United States from the deal because it disadvantages the United States economically. However, President Trump is not the only president in recent history to insinuate the denial of climate change or to question a global agreement on those grounds.
George H.W. Bush
In 1988, The United Nations Environmental Program and World Meteorological Organization created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to study global warming. George H. W. Bush in a campaign speech pledged to have a "global conference on the environment at the White House" once he was elected, but no such conference ever took place. In 1990, he emphasized the “scientific uncertainty” of climate change. In Rio de Janeiro in 1992, President George H W Bush reluctantly signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 197 countries ratified this agreement and possessed voluntary goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which was later ratified by the Senate.
During Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, he reinforced his belief in the severity of the issue of climate change saying, “our addiction to fossil fuels…is wrapping the earth in a deadly shroud of greenhouse gases.” In 1993, the beginning of President Clinton’s term, he launched the Climate Change Action Plan. This plan included efforts to implement energy-saving technologies and tree-planting programs as well as increased incentives for citizens to use public transit. This plan was implemented on the grounds that it would meet the terms of the UNFCCC agreement. In 1997, the Senate adopted a resolution stating that the United States should not take part in any treaty that does not include tight emission limits on developing countries, in fear that it would be detrimental to the US economy. Keeping in line with this, Bill Clinton agreed with the Kyoto Protocol, which assigned firm greenhouse gas emission limits to all signing countries. The Protocol itself, however, included different requirements for poor versus richer countries. However, Clinton never submitted this treaty for a vote in the Senate, thus giving it no real force in American law.
George W. Bush
Early in President Bush’s campaign he is quoted saying that he pledged to cap carbon dioxide fumes and put further regulations on power plants “within a reasonable amount of time.” In a statement on June 11th, 2001, Bush remarked that the issue of global climate change “should be important to every nation in every part of the world.” He went on to point out that he believed the Kyoto Protocol was “fatally flawed in fundamental ways.” Questing the Protocol, Bush points out that major developing countries were exempt from some of the requirements of the agreement, such as China. Bush did not pull out of the agreement, but his rhetoric highlighted the United States’ economic disadvantages, just as Trump has done in regards to the Paris Climate Accords.
Early in his tenure as presidency, Obama promised “a new chapter in American’s leadership on climate change.” While Obama put other issues on his agenda ahead of tackling the issue of climate change, he did implement a number of environmental policies under his administration. His administration pledged $3 billion over four years to the Green Climate Fund, which aids countries in developing clean energy and dealing with consequences of extreme weather. Additionally, he implemented the Clean Power Plan, which effectively reduced carbon emissions from power plants. He also rejected the Keystone XL on climate change grounds, made a climate deal with China, agreed to the successful Paris Climate Accords, and banned Arctic drilling. In his second inaugural address, President Obama addressed the issue head on saying, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”