US president-elect Donald Trump, a hardcore climate change sceptic, had a lengthy meeting on Monday with former vice-president Al Gore, a leading campaigner on the issue, showing flexibility that has surprised even his harshest critics.
Trump is among those, specially on the right in American politics, who believe climate change is a hoax, and for the president-elect, played by the Chinese. He railed against it on the campaign trail, blaming regulations for killing the economy.
He has been far more accommodating since his election. He has said he is willing to take another look at the Paris Accord, which he had promised to tear up first thing in office, not even renegotiate it, but pull the US out of it completely.
As a major signatory of the Paris Accord, which it ratified in October, India will be watching whether Trump’s evolution on climate change goes beyond words. India co-launched a global solar power initiative at the signing, with France.
After the meeting at Trump Tower, Gore told reporters, “I had a lengthy and very productive session with the president-elect. It was a sincere search for areas of common ground. I had a meeting beforehand with Ivanka Trump.
“The bulk of the time was with the president-elect, Donald Trump. I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued, and I'm just going to leave it at that.” The operative part of the remarks: talks “to be continued”.
The fact that Trump met Gore was welcomed by his critics, such as Tony Schwartz, who co-authored Trump’s “The art of the deal” and has been an unrelenting critic since. He told a TV interviewer he felt encouraged.
A group of scientists wrote a letter to Trump last week on climate change, urging him to respect the integrity of the research. “We urge you to decide if you want your presidency to be defined by denial and disaster, or acceptance and action,” it said.
Signed by more than 700 scientists and academics, the letter lists six steps Trump can take to help protect the nation’s “economy, national security, and public health and safety”.
Trump may already be listening. He told The New York Times last month that he has an “open mind” on the Paris Accord and that protecting air quality and “crystal clear” water is crucial.
But he has also repeated his resolve to get rid of environmental regulations put in place by the Obama administration to unshackle energy production, essentially by fracking. Trump has put this on his checklist for his first 100 days in office.
But his recent remarks and the meeting with Gore is signalling a shift that environmentalists are tracking with growing optimism and they look to Trump’s daughter Ivanka as a partner, possibly their only one in Trump Tower.
She has been taking active interest in the issue and recently met actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who gave her a copy of Before The Flood, the 90-minute documentary on climate change he co-produced with Martin Scorsese.