The beginning of President Obama's administration was a rough period for politicians who now oppose taking action to address climate change. The year Obama was elected was the year that former House speaker Newt Gingrich and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously sat on a couch outside the Capitol to demand political support for clean energy — a move that came to haunt Gingrich's 2012 bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
A year later, a group of business leaders offered their names for a full-page ad that ran in the New York Times on the brink of the United Nations' annual climate summit that December, which was held in Copenhagen. (It was at the same summit in Paris last year that Obama and other world leaders reached a landmark new agreement on reducing fossil fuel emissions.) The ad, uncovered by the environmental site Grist and shared by the Times makes the business case for action on carbon dioxide emissions.
"We urge you, our government, to strengthen and pass United States legislation, and lead the world by example," it read. "We recognize the key role that American innovation and leadership play in stimulating the worldwide economy. Investing in a Clean Energy Economy will drive state-of-the-art technologies that will spur economic growth, create new energy jobs, and increase our energy security all while reducing the harmful emissions that are putting our planet at risk."
Near the bottom of the list of signatures — people were invited to add their own at the horribly named businessleaders4environmentalchange.us — is a family with whom we've grown very familiar of late: Donald Trump, his eldest sons and eldest daughter.
Those signatures are clearly the-Trumps-as-business-leaders, as opposed to Donald-Trump-as-private-citizen, although that's a blurry line.
By early 2010, Trump was publicly disparaging the effort to combat climate change. Three months after his name appeared on that ad, Trump was interviewed by Neil Cavuto on Fox News to discuss the subject, after a number of companies pulled out of a climate action group.
Why'd the companies balk? "They see the fact that, in Washington, where I'm building a big development, nobody can move, because we have 48 inches of snow, and the snow is not melting because it's so cold," Trump told Cavuto. "And, in New York, we have had the coldest winter on record." The cost of combatting climate change was too high, Trump said, and other countries were "laughing" at America's hobbling itself in this regard. "It's putting this country at a competitive disadvantage," he said, according to a transcript at Nexis.com.
"To think that you can't use hair spray in your bathroom because it's going to destroy the ozone," he said, previewing a common line from his campaign. "I mean, it's called ... give me a break."
The following year, Trump was beginning his transition into politics, flirting with running for the Republican nomination. To win that fight, putting distance between himself and any flirtation with climate change only made sense. During his current effort, he's been adamantly opposed to the Paris climate accord — an agreement that provided precisely the sort of proposal that the 2009 ad advocated.
We asked his campaign why Trump's name appeared on that ad, but have not yet heard back. Trump's transition from apparently approving of climate change to disavowing it was more rapid than that of many Republican politicians, but it mirrors the party on the whole. While nearly half of Republicans in 2007 expressed concern about global warming, by 2010 the number had fallen to a third.
Unlike most Republicans, though, Trump's transition was public.