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Yesterday at the 2020 World Economic Forum, held in Davos, Switzerland, US President Donald Trump addressed delegates with a speech which did its best to ignore climate change. In his view, "We must reject the perennial prophets of doom", while he called for a rejection of "predictions of the apocalypse." In his view, today's climate activists are "the heirs of yesterday's foolish fortune tellers".

He said, “This is not a time for pessimism. This is a time for optimism.  Fear and doubt is not a good thought process because this is a time for tremendous hope and joy and optimism and action.”

He went on to announce that the United States would be joining a World Economic Forum initiative, 1t.org, which aims to plant one trillion trees globally by 2030.

In a speech that concentrated largely on the United States' success under his leadership, Mr Trump, aged 73 added, "We're committed to conserving the majesty of God's creation and the natural beauty of our world."

Shortly after Mr Trump's speech, 17 year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg opened a session in Davos called 'Averting a Climate Apocalypse'.

She responded to the US President's announcement of US participation in 1t.org, saying, “Planting trees is good, of course, but it’s nowhere near enough.  Unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight. Our house is still on fire.  Your inaction is fuelling the flames.”

She set out her wishes for tackling the global climate emergency:

  • To immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction
  • To immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies
  • To immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels

Targets set by the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change are to keep global temperature increases to below 2C and preferably below 1.5C by 2100.  In 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society" would be required if we are to stand any chance of keeping temperature increases below 1.5C.

In a speech that praised the success of the fossil fuel industry in the US, it seems that President Trump refuses to accept the need to take action on climate change.  And the US is set to withdraw from the Paris Agreement the day after the 2020 US Presidential election, assuming that Mr Trump is re-elected.

Under President Trump, more than 90 environmental rules and regulations have been rolled back, or are in the process of being rolled back, according to a New York Times article, published in December 2019.

Greta Thunberg said, “We need to start listening to the science, and treat this crisis with the importance it deserves....Without treating it as a real crisis we cannot solve it."

As soon as Mr Trump had finished speaking, Nobel prize-winning US economist Joseph Stiglitz criticised his speech, saying "He managed to say absolutely zero on climate change...Meanwhile we’re going to roast.”

'How to save the planet' is one of seven key themes being discussed at this year's World Economic Forum.

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