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Trump’s climate change reading material is beyond parody

Good news: Trump plans to read a book about environmentalism. Bad news: the actual book.

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President Trump Announces Proposed National Environment Policy Act Regulations
President Trump speaks during a White House event on Thursday.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The White House says President Donald Trump plans to do some reading about climate change. But the specific book he has his eye on is the stuff of a Saturday Night Live skit.

Given his long history of dismissing climate change as a “hoax,” Trump made a bit of news on Thursday when he claimed to take the issue seriously during a White House event to announce, ironically, regulatory changes that make it easier for federal agencies to approve infrastructure projects without having to consider climate implications.

Asked whether he thinks climate change “is a hoax” by a reporter, Trump replied, “No, no. Not at all.” But instead of talking about the risks of climate change, Trump mentioned a book he intends to read and proclaimed his support for clean air and water.

“Nothing’s a hoax. Nothing’s a hoax about that. It’s a very serious subject. I want clean air. I want clean water. I want the cleanest air, I want the cleanest water,” Trump said. “The environment is very important to me. Someone wrote a book that I’m an environmentalist ... I’d like to get it. I have it in the other office. I’ll bring it to my next news conference perhaps.”

Trump went on to say that even though he’s a self-proclaimed environmentalist, “I don’t want to close up our industry because somebody said, you know, you have to go with wind ... or something else that’s not going to have the capacity.” Watch:

Trump’s sincerity about being committed to clean air and water is questionable at best. Still, his remark about having a book in mind piqued the curiosity of New York Times climate change reporter Lisa Friedman.

Friedman followed up with the White House to find out which book the president was referring to. But if you thought Trump was planning to read something that might broaden his horizons, think again. It turns out the volume in question is literally titled Donald J. Trump: An Environmental Hero, and it was written by Ed Russo, who worked as a consultant for Trump’s business.

According to Amazon’s summary, Russo’s book — which was released in September 2016 — “chronicles his time as an environmental advisor for Trump and his many business interests,” and “reveals a much different portrait of the Republican presidential nominee than what many see on television or the Internet. He details a man truly invested in environmental protection and ready to hire experts to carry out his vision.”

Suffice it to say that Russo isn’t exactly an unbiased source. The Amazon page notes that he “acted as an environmental consultant for Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization for fifteen years.”

Trump really should do some legitimate reading about climate change

As the purpose of Thursday’s event illustrated, the president has a lot of power to take action that can either address or exacerbate the climate crisis — a crisis on especially stark display right now due to the historic wildfires in Australia. And as my colleague Dave Roberts detailed just a few days ago, recent studies indicate time is running out to avoid worst-case climate scenarios, which in a rational world would mean elected leaders would be acting with urgency.

Trump’s virtue signaling for clean air and water won’t really address those problems, but it’s the talking point he regularly resorts to when he’s pressed about his history of denying climate change.

When Trump has tried to talk about climate in more detail, it’s typically a mess. During a speech to a conservative youth group last month, for instance, he made a series of false and bizarre claims about wind energy, including, among others, that the manufacturing of turbines creates “fumes” that “are spewing into the air,” making it sound as though wind turbines are pushing California’s bald eagle population to the brink of extinction; and, in an especially galaxy-brained moment, riffing that “you know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe.”

That speech capped off a year in which Trump pushed a dizzying amount of misinformation about wind energy — including, perhaps most memorably, his false claim about wind turbines causing cancer.

Trump is 73 years old and not known to be a voracious reader. It’s unrealistic at this point to expect him to change. But if he did want to delve into some serious reading material about the climate crisis, we’d recommend he start with Vox’s “9 questions about climate change you were too embarrassed to ask” or our interview with legendary environmentalist Paul Hawken about the top solutions to climate change.

The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.

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