A Trump official just tried to outwit Greta Thunberg. It ended very badly for him.

Greta Thunberg and Steven Mnuchin
Tracy Keeling

A Trump official tried to tear Greta Thunberg down a peg or two on 23 January. Responding to a question about the climate activist’s call for divestment from fossil fuels, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thunberg should “come back and explain that to us” after she’s studied economics in college.

Mnuchin’s message was effectively ‘shut up and listen to the grown-ups, Greta, until you are one yourself’. He should have known better than to try and outwit Thunberg, though. He of all people, in fact.

Divest, divest, divest

Thunberg spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 21 January. She told the meeting of global elites that:

Any plan or policy of yours that doesn’t include radical emission cuts at the source, starting today, is completely insufficient for meeting the 1.5-degree or well-below-2-degrees commitments of the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement lays out a commitment by signatory countries to ensure the global increase in temperatures doesn’t exceed 2°C (with the aim of keeping it at 1.5°C or below). Climate scientists say that temperature increases above the average in 1850-1900 must be kept to 1.5°C at the most if we are to limit the most severe effects of climate change. The average temperature increase in 2019, i.e. global warming since 1850-1990, reached 1.1°C. In short, we’re not going far enough or fast enough in taking necessary measures (such as reducing emissions) to hit the target. So Thunberg called on Davos attendees to:

Immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction.

Immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies.

And immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels.

It was this vital demand that Mnuchin responded to with his condescending remarks. He also commented:

Is she the chief economist, or who is she? I’m confused

Perhaps a picture will help

Donald Trump notoriously needs his briefings to come with lots of pictures because he’s “indifferent to subtleties”, reports claim. Perhaps Thunberg wondered whether that applied across the board with Trump’s team, because she responded to Mnuchin’s slur with a visual:

The climate activist also explained where the graph came from and challenged Mnuchin to either:

tell us how to achieve this mitigation or explain to future generations and those already affected by the climate emergency why we should abandon our climate commitments

Author Naomi Klein, meanwhile, pointed out that Thunberg isn’t alone in calling for divestment from fossil fuels:

Others just flat out gave Mnuchin a piece of their mind:

Get back to school (not you, Greta)

CNBC reporters discussed the climate crisis with the Treasury secretary after his comments. Some of the journalists appeared to be completely in tune with the Trump administration’s climate-crisis denial. But one asked Mnuchin about a contradiction in Trump’s position, whereby he supports the value of tree-planting to the planet but “does not believe that carbon dioxide is ultimately the problem”.

Trees absorb carbon. That makes them a vital ingredient in battling the carbon emissions we’ve released, and continue to release, into the atmosphere. But if Trump doesn’t believe carbon is a key part of the problem, then why does he think we need the trees? That was essentially the journalist’s question. Mnuchin responded:

It’s both correct. He doesn’t believe that [carbon is] the problem. On the other hand, obviously, planting a trillion trees is a good thing for the planet.

Pressed further, he continued:

Well, first of all trees are being cut down at paces all around. I mean, having forests, creating trees, I think these are all good things.

Clearly, someone needs to go back to school. But it’s not Thunberg.

Featured image via Bloomberg/YouTube and CNBC/YouTube

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. Steve Munchkin doesn’t care. He answers to the moron behind the curtain.

      It’s time a law was put on the statute books that makes it a crime for any government officer or business executive that underwrites the production of CO2 bearing products beyond current production levels. The law should require that people successfully prosecuted under the law are liable financially for the cost to remediate the damage done by the production and release of said CO2 and to serve a minimum of ten years in jail.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.