WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump told reporters Monday he's not buying the dire economic forecast that was included as part of an exhaustive climate change report his administration issued Friday.
"I don't believe it," he said when asked about the conclusions of the 1,600-page National Climate Assessment that details the climate and economic impacts U.S. residents will see if drastic action is not taken to address climate change.
In a worst-case scenario, top scientists from 13 federal agencies say in the report, climate change – primarily caused by human activity – could deliver a 10 percent hit to the nation's GDP by the end of the century.
During an impromptu session with reporters as he was leaving the White House to campaign for Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, the president downplayed the findings of the congressionally mandated climate report.
“I’ve seen it. I’ve read some of it. It’s fine," said Trump, who has called global warming a "hoax" perpetrated by the Chinese to gain a competitive advantage. “I don’t believe it.”
He said it makes no sense for the United States to take drastic steps to combat climate change when other countries, such as China and Japan, have not done so.
"Right now we’re at the cleanest we’ve ever been. It’s very important to me," the president told reporters. "If we’re clean and everyone else is dirty, that’s not so good.”
The report concludes that climate change threatens the health and well-being of the American people by causing increasing extreme weather, changes to air quality, the spread of new diseases by insects and pests and changes to the availability of food and water, the researchers say.
The president's reaction has made it tougher for already-reluctant Republicans to embrace a dramatic response to global warming.
Many Republicans did not weigh in on the report. Those prodded for a response offered various answers, ranging from a dismissal of its conclusions to supporting some type of action to mitigate the effects of a warming planet as long as it did not impede economic growth.
Former GOP Rep. Tom Delay, whose Houston area was battered by Hurricane Harvey last year, called the National Climate Assessment “nothing more than … an alarmist political document (written) by scientists that get paid to further the politics of global warming."
The climate report determined that the record rainfall from Harvey, which led to widespread flooding in Southeast Texas, was in part due to warmer waters.
Appearing on Sunday news talk shows, GOP lawmakers were willing to acknowledge climate change as an issue, but not one that deserves immediate and dramatic action, as the report calls for.
Nebraska GOP Sen. Ben Sasse told "Fox News Sunday" the U.S. needs to "innovate our way into the future."
Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee told NBC's "Meet The Press" he too thinks "innovation" is a more desirable way to address climate change versus environmentalists' approach of increasing the cost of the carbon emissions that are heating the planet.
"All the proposals I've seen so far that would address any of these issues would devastate the U.S. economy and have little or no benefit that is demonstrable from our standpoint," Lee said.
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, representing a state where the lobster industry has been affected by warming seas, said on Twitter the report "should cause all of us, including the Administration, to take a harder look at the consequences of inaction & use what is known about climate risks to inform policy."
Her statement carried no specific recommendation, however.
Bob Inglis, a former GOP congressman from South Carolina, said Republicans feel boxed in because there's a sense that "we don't have a solution that fits with our conservative values because the conversation has so far been conducted in the language of the left."
Inglis, who heads a nonprofit, RepublicEn, which aims to transform his party’s stance on global warming, said it's been especially difficult for Republicans to embrace a solution when Trump is constantly belittling the science behind it.
"In a strange sort of way, he may help us because when he leaves office, he's going to take climate disputation with him ... It's going to be so closely identified with him," Inglis told WNYC radio Monday. At that point, "let the adults in the room and the Americans who believe in solutions get with it."