President-elect Trump admits ‘some connectivity’ between climate change and human activity

Donald Trump speaking at the 1st Presidential Debate at Hofstra University, New York on September 26, 2016.

NEW YORK — President-elect Donald Trump conceded Tuesday there is “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change and wavered on whether he would pull the United States out of international accords aimed at combating the phenomenon, which scientists overwhelmingly agree is caused by human activity.

The statements could mark a softening in President-elect Trump’s position on US involvement in efforts to fight climate change, although he did not commit to specific action in any direction. During the campaign, he vowed to “cancel” the US’s participation in the Paris climate agreement, stop all US payments to UN programs aimed at fighting climate change and continued to cast serious doubt on the role man-made carbon dioxide emissions played in the planet’s warming and associated impacts.

“I think there is some connectivity. Some, something. It depends on how much,” President-elect Trump said Tuesday in a meeting with New York Times reporters, columnists and editors. He has previously called climate change a “hoax” invented by the Chinese.

Asked if he would withdraw the US from international climate change agreements, President-elect Trump said he is “looking at it very closely,” according to Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Mike Grynbaum, who were live-tweeting the meeting. He added that he has “an open mind to it,” despite explicitly promising to withdraw from at least one climate accord on the campaign trail.

Still, President-elect Trump’s comments do not amount to a full reversal.

The President-elect on the campaign trail repeatedly vowed to slash environmental protection regulations burdening US businesses and said that beyond the consequences to the planet, he is particularly mindful of the economic impact of combating climate change.

He said he is considering “how much it will cost our companies” and the effect on American competitiveness in the global market, according to a tweet from Grynbaum.

President-elect Trump’s election sparked concerns from climate change activists that the incoming Republican president will roll back the progress made under the Obama administration.

President Barack Obama made inroads with other countries — China in particular — toward new international agreements to roll back global carbon emissions, progress activist groups have worried will be undone by a President-elect Trump presidency.

“The disaster that Donald Trump represents for the climate cannot be understated,” Jamie Henn, a spokesman for 350.org, an environmental advocacy group, told CNN last week. “He is the only head of state in the world who is an all-out climate denier and he has the most radical, anti-environmental policies of anyone to ever assume the role of the presidency.”

While President-elect Trump’s comments on Tuesday may suggest an ambivalence — if not a softening — on the issue of climate change, the President-elect’s actions suggest his election did not cause him to immediately abandon his climate skepticism.

President-elect Trump appointed a leading climate change denier Myron Ebell to lead his transition efforts on the Environmental Protection Agency and has not stepped back from his vow to slash environmental regulations he argued during the campaign are an undue burden on US businesses.

“Whether or not Trump acknowledges the connection between human pollution and climate change, the science is real. Climate change is happening, and fossil fuels are making it worse,” Greenpeace USA spokesman Travis Nichols said. “No matter what he says, Trump’s 100 days plan and his proposed Cabinet appointees put climate denial front and center in his administration and put the planet and its people at risk.”