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          Food and Agriculture in 2 Minutes

     

    Food and Agriculture in 2 Minutes

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    This is Food and Ag in 2.

    CRISPR study

    Researchers from Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital have published an early draft of a study that contradicts findings that suggest using CRISPR gene editing technology can cause unintended mutations. This new research concludes it is challenging to suggest CRISPR technology could induce such changes and argues the lack of appropriate controls in the original study made it biased. They urge the study’s authors to revise their conclusions to prevent misinformation.

    Honeybees

    Writing for Reason magazine, Property and Environment Research Center representative Shawn Regan takes aim at publicized claims of honeybee population decline. He argues the media has ignored that beekeepers have adapted quickly by rapidly rebuilding hives with virtually no economic effects. He also notes the Environmental Protection Agency has determined that four common neonicotinoid pesticides aren’t threats, which is contradictory to media reports.

    Milkweed

    Genetic Literacy Project’s Andrew Porterfield says milkweed is a complicated topic. While it is a primary food source for monarch butterflies, it also is devastating to farmers’ crops. It has been fought off with popular weed-killer glyphosate, which Porterfield notes has become a rallying symbol for environmentalists and anti-GMO activists. While monarchs need a solution to the milkweed problem, Porterfield argues planting milkweed in regions where it is not native could pose worse risks.

    Chlorpyrifos

    Angela Logomasini of the Competitive Enterprise Institute is applauding the Environmental Protection Agency’s final decision to permit agricultural uses of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. The agency had been following the research of Columbia University’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health, which Logomasini contends is junk science, but later switched back to denying the petition. She argues this sets precedent for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to lead the agency to create policies based on scientific fact.

    I’m Maya Menon with v-Fluence, a global provider of food and ag intelligence.

    WASHINGTON  — One day after President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would be leaving the Paris climate accord, administration officials have not explained his views on climate change.

    During a press briefing Friday, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt was asked if Trump believes that climate change is man-made and a threat, a view shared by the vast majority of the scientific community.

    “All the discussions we’ve had in the past several weeks have been focused on one singular issue: Is Paris good or not for this country,” Pruitt said. “That’s the discussions I’ve had with the president. That’s been my focus.”

    Pruitt gave a similar response to follow-up attempts from reporters seeking additional clarity.

    As Vox has reported, the president has expressed skepticism over climate change 115 times on Twitter, including six tweets in which he suggested global warming is a “hoax.”

    During the first presidential debate last year, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton invoked Trump’s claim that global warming was a hoax propagated by the Chinese government, to which Trump shot back,, “I do not say that, I do not say that.”

    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked on Tuesday if the president believes that human activity causes climate change and replied that he had not discussed that issue with the president but would follow up.

    On Friday, Spicer said that he has still “not had the opportunity to have that discussion.”

    An administration official briefing reporters on background following the president’s announcement on the accord said that he similarly did not know the president’s views.

    In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Friday, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway was asked if the president believes that climate change is a hoax.

    Conway responded that Stephanopoulos should ask the president.

    On Tuesday, reporters attempted to bring the question to Trump directly while he met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc in the Oval Office.

    “Do you believe that climate change is a hoax still?” one reporter asked.

    “Thank you, everybody,” Trump said in response, signaling that the press should be lead out of the room.

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the U.S. will leave the Paris climate accord, and instead attempt to renegotiate its involvement.

    “The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord but begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or, really, an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers,” Trump said during a speech in the White House’s Rose Garden.

    The agreement, which was formally signed by the U.S. in late 2016, pledges to keep global temperatures at 35.6 F above pre-industrial levels and eventually aims to keep them below 34.7 F. By not signing the agreement, the U.S. joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries who oppose the treaty under the United Nations Framework Convention.

    President Barack Obama initially described the accord as the “single-best chance that we have to deal with a problem that could end up transforming this planet in a way that makes it very difficult for us to deal with all the other challenges that we may face.”

    While 194 nations in addition to the U.S. had signed onto the accord, Trump cast it as particularly detrimental to the American economy, and repeatedly cast his decision as part of the “America first” theme of his campaign and presidency.

    “I was elected to represent the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said.

    He pledged to abandon the accord during the presidential campaign, but had not confirmed that he would be following through until Thursday.

    On Wednesday night, Trump teased his pending announcement, adding a level of drama to the revelation.

    The decision to leave was not universally embraced within the administration.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been an advocate for staying in while Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt had pushed for pulling out.

    In addition, the White House’s brain trust was split on the issue, with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, reportedly pressing the president to stay in and White House adviser Steven Bannon urging Trump to leave.

    In anticipation of the announcement, the European Union and China both reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement.

    Within the U.S., environmentalists and critics of the president were quick to condemn the withdrawal.

    Former Vice President Al Gore warned that the decision “undermines America’s standing in the world and threatens to damage humanity’s ability to solve the climate crisis in time” and that ultimately American citizens must now pick up the slack.

    “If President Trump won’t lead, the American people will,” Gore said. “Civic leaders, mayors, governors, CEOs, investors and the majority of the business community will take up this challenge.”

    Former President Barack Obama, who oversaw U.S. entry into the accord, issued a statement countering Trump’s claim that the agreement would harm the U.S. economy, arguing that leaving will instead pose a greater threat.

    “Simply put, the private sector already chose a low-carbon future. And for the nations that committed themselves to that future, the Paris Agreement opened the floodgates for businesses, scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation on an unprecedented scale,” Obama said. “The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created. I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack.”

    Tech giant Elon Musk announced following Trump’s remarks that he would be leaving advisory councils he served on within the administration.

    Among Republican lawmakers, Trump was largely applauded for fulfilling his campaign promises and protecting American jobs.

    “By withdrawing from this unattainable mandate, President Trump has reiterated his commitment to protecting middle class families across the country and workers throughout coal country from higher energy prices and potential job loss” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) called the Paris climate agreement  “a raw deal for America.”

    “Signed by President Obama without Senate ratification, it would have driven up the cost of energy, hitting middle-class and low-income Americans the hardest,” Ryan said in a statement. “In order to unleash the power of the American economy, our government must encourage production of American energy. I commend President Trump for fulfilling his commitment to the American people and withdrawing from this bad deal.”

    In a background briefing following Trump’s speech, a White House official said the administration will comply with the requirements for withdrawal within the accord, meaning that the formal notification that the U.S. will exit can not be made for at least three years.

          Food and Agriculture in 2 Minutes

     

    Food and Agriculture in 2 Minutes

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    This is Food and Ag in 2.

    Pink Pineapples

    Canadian news outlet KelowanaNow contributor Liz Hostland reports on Del Monte’s ‘Rose’ pineapple. The company’s pineapple has recently garnered positive social media attention on Instagram for its color, which has been genetically engineered to appear pink. Hostland notes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Del Monte’s pineapple as safe to consume and commends the company on successful marketing.

    Non-GMO project

    Forbes contributor Kavin Senapathy criticizes Non-GMO Project’s tactics, especially its iconic orange butterfly logo that appears as verification on non-GMO products. Senapathy notes genetic engineering is thought to be the best hope in the fight against citrus greening, a fatal bacterial disease, but technology hasn’t reached the farmers in need primarily due to anti-GMO sentiment. Arguing that the label provides no scientific-based information and simply misleads the consumer, she urges producers not to use the verification symbol.

    Neonics

    Paul Driessen for Townhall reports on the federal court ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency violated the Endangered Species Act when it approved 59 products containing neonic pesticides. Because the EPA must consult with agencies to determine the effect of pesticides on species, Driessen urges EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to involve experts representing all parties in assessing pros and cons of neonic use so policies and regulation can be based on science.

    Organic benefits

    In an article for Quartz, writer Marc Bain discusses how the word ‘organic’ is a powerful marketing tool rather than an indicator of a better product. He argues that an organic cotton t-shirt may have actually used more resources than a conventional cotton alternative, because it is not genetically modified, so it needs more land and irrigation. He recommends the environmentally-conscious shopper do research to purchase fewer and higher quality clothing items rather than being swayed by labels.

    I’m Erin Byrne, with v-Fluence, a global provider of food and ag intelligence.

    President Trump signs an executive order on American energy policy and climate regulations. March 28, 2017. Courtesy: White House

    WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump said on Twitter Wednesday that he will announce whether the U.S. will remain a signatory in the Paris Climate Accord in coming days.

    However, multiple media reports claim Trump already has decided to pull out of the agreement, which includes 195 signatories pledging to keep global temperatures at 35.6 F above pre-industrial levels and eventually move to keep them below 34.7 F.

    The U.S. formally entered the deal in September 2016, with President Barack Obama declaring it the “single-best chance that we have to deal with a problem that could end up transforming this planet in a way that makes it very difficult for us to deal with all the other challenges that we may face.”

    The deal is considered one of the landmark deals and part of Obama’s legacy but many of Trump’s supporters will support the president’s expected decision to pull out of the contract.

    Trump has maintained that the standards under the deal are unfair and would reduce job growth, as well as wages while increasing utility costs in the U.S. Trump said the U.S. economy would falter while other countries will flourish while expanding their GDPs.

    Amid reports that Trump could withdraw, the Associated Press reported that European Union and Chinese officials have vowed to reaffirm their commitment to the agreement.

    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday that the president met with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to discuss the accord.

    Pruitt has previously called for the U.S. to withdraw.

    Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex) also called on Trump to keep his campaign promise and withdraw from the agreement. “President Trump has an opportunity to relieve our nation of the unfair and economically devastating requirements of the Paris Agreement, the United Nations climate treaty he pledged to rip up during the campaign,” Cruz wrote in an Op-Ed for CNN.

    On Wednesday, Trump is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who signed an international declaration earlier this month that voiced support for the deal.

          Food and Agriculture in 2 Minutes

     

    Food and Agriculture in 2 Minutes

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    This is Food and Ag in 2.

    USDA Reorganization Proposal

    U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently proposed a USDA reorganization that would create a new undersecretary for trade, and abolish the undersecretary for rural development. His proposal also would put one undersecretary in charge of farm subsidies and land stewardship, instead of two. American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, among others, applaud Perdue’s plan, saying it will benefit rural farmers.

    US Trade Representative

    Robert Lighthizer has been confirmed as the next U.S. Trade Representative and is expected to follow through on President Trump’s promises of looking to restructure the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade deals. The confirmation received support from the American Soybean Association, which contends it’s the right step in developing trade policies that better promote U.S. food production. NCBA concurs, encouraging Lighthizer to expand into new international markets.

    Organic Livestock Rule

    Writing for Bloomberg’s Bureau of National Affairs, agriculture policy journalist Casey Wooten reports the USDA has further delayed implementing a rule from the Obama administration that would set higher living standards for organic poultry and livestock. Wooten notes some critics argue the rule would be unnecessarily expensive and drive up costs for consumers. He reports USDA says the delay from May to November will allow for more public comments to help decide if it should be implemented.

    WOTUS rule

    The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are asking for input from state governors concerning the rewrite of the definition of protected waters of the United States. Administrator Scott Pruitt says EPA is working to make the implementation of WOTUS and the Clean Water Act transparent and hopes to work with state governments to determine the best way to protect their waters.

    I’m Maya Menon with v-Fluence, a global provider of food and ag intelligence.

          Food and Agriculture in 2 Minutes

     

    Food and Agriculture in 2 Minutes

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    This is Food and Ag in 2.

    Clean Water Rule

    Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt has directed a rewrite of the Clean Water Act, which aims to protect U.S. waterways. Pruitt’s hints at the content of the new rule left agriculture organizations, other interest groups, and many legislators concerned. A group of Democratic senators have since written to Pruitt, asking for assurance that the new rule would continue to protect drinking water.

    Organic labeling

    In an op-ed for the San Diego Union Tribune, food writer Julie Kelly and molecular biologist Henry Miller discuss the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic labeling program. They contend that the campaign should be eliminated because organic labels are simply a marketing tool, and unassuming customers are influenced by the misleading titles to spend extra money on goods with little added benefit. They urge the USDA to stop promoting fear-based labeling.

    Mosquito gene editing

    Salon contributor Angelo Young discusses the implications of South American scientists studying the genetics and biology of the mosquito that transmits Zika, Yellow Fever and other highly contagious diseases. He emphasizes the potential for gene editing to produce an organism that will help combat diseased species. Young contends that this is similar to the benefits of agriculture GMOs and notes that it will be a challenge for both to convince the public of the use and safety of gene editing in organisms.

    EPA

    Writing for Genetic Literacy Project, agriculture scientist Steve Savage praises the Environmental Protection Agency, noting its significant progress in pesticide regulations. However, he is concerned about the public’s negative perception of the EPA, noting most viewpoints are based on assumptions and political opinions rather than evaluating EPA’s actual actions. He believes the agency will play a significant role in pesticide regulation, and urges that people accurately gauge the EPA.

    I’m Maya Menon with v-Fluence, a global provider of food and ag intelligence.

          Food and Agriculture in 2 Minutes

     

    Food and Agriculture in 2 Minutes

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    This is Food and Ag in 2.

    Chlorpyrifos

    The Environmental Protection Agency recently denied a petition looking to ban chlorpyrifos, a common pesticide used on fruits and other crops. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt claims that this is the right step in making decisions based on scientific reasoning rather than assumptions. However, environmental groups claim recent studies prove the pesticide can interfere with brain development in children. Dow AgroSciences asserts its product offers wide margins of protection for human health and safety.

    Phosphate

    Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered a key genetic switch that helps soil bacteria living in plant’s roots harvest phosphate, a vital nutrient that is commonly found in fertilizer. Published in the journal Nature, their work proposes the possibility of microbe treatments for plants to increase their efficient use of phosphate. This could prevent phosphate runoff into waterways, which can adversely affect aquatic ecosystems and water quality.

    EU farm subsidies

    Former secretary general of the United Nations Kofi Annan criticized the European Union’s farming subsidies at an ag and environment event in Brussels. He notes that farming subsidies in wealthier nations pose a challenge to Africa, pressuring it to import rather than farm food. He asserts that science and technology, such as GMOs, have the potential to increase agriculture productivity and decrease hunger, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Organic cotton

    Writing for Genetic Literacy Project, farmer Michelle Miller discusses the impact of celebrities embracing organic cotton for sustainability. Miller notes that since cotton is a very finicky crop to grow, farming it organically is extremely tedious and heavily depends on tillage, tractor passes, and rotary hoes, resulting in a higher carbon footprint. She argues that GMOs are the more efficient and sustainable option, and urges celebrities to use their platform to promote scientifically-based campaigns.

    I’m Maya Menon with v-Fluence, a global provider of food and ag intelligence.

    Court orders reprieve for Utah prairie dog
    With the sidelines packed with animal rights organizations, farm and conservation groups and the attorneys general of nine western states, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulation that prohibits the killing of prairie dogs in Utah. Residents of Cedar City, Utah, banding together as People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners, protested the regulation’s application on non-federal land, but the Court held the Constitution’s “interstate commerce” clause applies to federal and non-federal land alike.

    Ex-congressman indicted for theft
    Former Republican U.S. Rep. Stephen Stockman, 60, of Clear Lake, Tex., was indicted on charges he stole $1.25 million from charitable organizations and used the money to finance his election campaigns and personal expenses, the Department of Justice said. After losing bids for election to the House in 1990 and 1992, Stockman won election and served a single term in the House (1995-96); and, he won another term in 2012.

    State Department employee traded secrets for cash
    Candace Claiborne, 60, of Washington, D.C., an employee of the U.S. Department of State, was indicted for concealing contacts over a period of years with Chinese intelligence agents. The Department of Justice said Claiborne had a Top Secret security clearance and had worked in embassies and consulates in Iraq, Sudan, and China. DOJ said Claiborne failed to report her contacts with two Chinese agents who gave her cash and gifts in exchange for classified information.

    Aging mobster sentenced for murder plot
    Charles Stango, 73, of Henderson, Nev., a member of the DeCavalcante Family of La Cosa Nostra, was given a 10-year sentence for using a telephone to plan the murder of a mob rival, the Department of Justice said. Stango admitted that he wanted to murder a rival who falsely claimed he was a “made” member of the New Jersey-based crime family. Stango also admitted he offered $50,000 to two assassins to carry out the murder, but the DOJ said the “assassins” were actually undercover FBI agents.

    Unfair trade probe opens for Chinese aluminum foil
    The Department of Commerce opened an investigation to determine if China is illegally subsidizing exports of aluminum foil into the U.S. market. A complaint from the Aluminum Association claimed that 230 Chinese manufacturers were dumping aluminum foil at prices ranging from 38.4% to 140.2% below fair value. A concurrent investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission will determine if the U.S. aluminum industry was harmed by the underpriced imports.

    EPA withdraws proposed ban on dangerous pesticide
    Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt cancelled a proposed ban of a pesticide by denying a 2007 petition that languished without action throughout the Obama administration. In 2015, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said EPA’s failure to respond to a Natural Resources Defense Council petition for over eight years was “egregious.” Residential use of the pesticide, called chlorpyrifos and sold by Dow Chemical Co. under brand names such as Dursban and Lorsban, has been banned for residential use since 2001.

    Nigerian scammer collected $12 million in bogus tax refunds
    Kevin Williams (also known as Kunlay Sodipo), a citizen of Nigeria who re-entered the U.S. after his 1995 deportation, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of identity theft and collecting more than $12 million in refunds from fraudulently filed federal tax returns. He was also charged with falsely claiming U.S. citizenship to cast votes in the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, the Department of Justice said.

    Chicago investment advisor scammed elderly
    The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission obtained an emergency asset freeze and restraining order against Daniel Glick, a Chicago investment advisor, and his company, Financial Management Strategies, for scamming elderly investors out of millions of dollars. The SEC claimed clients were given false account statements that hid Glick’s use of their money to pay personal and business expenses, including the purchase of a Mercedes-Benz.

    TARP was profitable enterprise for taxpayers
    More than 700 banks shared $205 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that Congress hastily approved in 2008 to help the banking industry survive the nation’s worst economic collapse since the Depression. The Government Accountability Office reported to Congress that 696 out of 707 banks have repaid $199.6 billion of the $204.9 billion that was distributed, and that the Department of Treasury collected an additional $27.1 billion in dividends and interest, working out to a 7.56% return on investment for taxpayers.

    Rip ‘n Read is a daily compilation of press releases found on hundreds of websites that are maintained by the federal government, think tanks, watchdog groups and national advocacy organizations. Press releases selected for this feature are, in the opinion of the editor, exceptionally newsworthy, interesting or just plain curious.

    The press releases and documents linked to this report were posted on their websites on Wednesday, March 29

     

     

    President Trump signs an executive order on American energy policy and climate regulations. March 28, 2017. Courtesy: White House

    NEW YORK – President Donald Trump signed a sweeping executive order on Tuesday aimed at dismantling former President Barack Obama’s climate legacy and removing a series of regulations viewed by coal and oil executives as a drag on business.

    Trump called the executive order “the start of a new era in American energy” and pledged that his actions would succeed at “bringing back our jobs, bringing back our dreams and making America wealthy again.”

    At the center of the executive order are instructions for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and rewrite the Clean Power Plan, a 2014 rule change enacted by Obama that aimed to slash power-plant emissions by a third by 2030.

    “Perhaps no single regulation threatens our miners, energy workers and companies more than this crushing attack on American industry,” Trump said, referring to the rule as the “so-called Clean Power Plan.”

    The EPA’s review of the Clean Power Plan is likely to involve the relaxing of emissions reduction targets, though further efforts undertaken by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to further weaken the agency’s regulatory authority are likely to be met with court challenge.

    A second key feature of the order is the reversal of Obama’s 2016 moratorium on the leasing of federal lands to coal mining companies. By leasing that land at low rates, critics say the Trump administration will have another tool to subsidize the fossil fuel industry.

    Unconcerned by the appearance of displaying favoritism to the industry, Trump singed out coal miners for praise before signing the executive order, telling a story from the 2016 campaign in which he asked West Virginian miners if they would accept retraining for another job.

    “They said, ‘no, we don’t like that idea, we love to mine, that’s what we want to do,’ ” Trump recalled. “I said if that’s what you want to do, that’s what you’re going to do.”

    “We will put our miners back to work,” Trump said to applause.

    Analysts anticipate Tuesday’s executive orders may slow down a multi-year trend of mine closures, but few predict the industry to greatly expand its workforce given that coal companies have already embraced automation and no longer require the labor they once did.

    “Automation has been eating into coal jobs over a long period of time—years before concerns about climate change led to the environmental regulations that President Trump solely blames for the industry’s decline,” Devashree Saha and Sifan Liu wrote in a Brookings Institute research note earlier this year. “In the end, coal workers’ faith in President Trump doesn’t matter much: coal jobs are not coming back.”

    Bolstered by those and other findings, Senate Democrats are on a media blitz predicting failure for Trump’s labor market promises and noting that the climate will pay the consequences for his actions.

    “This executive order will not bring back the coal industry. Donald Trump saying so otherwise is just not a true. It’s an insult to the men and women who voted for him,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) told reporters. “We should be looking to the future.”

    Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) echoed that sentiment, accusing Trump of endangering the country’s current energy independence by reverting back to reliance on fossil fuels.

    “We know that renewable clean energy is an area where we can be competitive and have a stable source of energy for America’s future,” Cardin said. “That’s now in jeopardy by the Trump administration’s policies.”

    Tuesday’s executive order also instructs the White House to review the “Social Cost of Carbon,” a complex aimed at factoring the global harm of emissions into cost benefit analyses across the government. A requirement that federal agencies pursue emissions reductions through their operations also will be nixed.

    Despite having signed a 2009 letter calling on Obama to embrace renewable energy technology in an effort to avert climate change, Trump made no mention of such technologies on Tuesday. Instead, he repeatedly touted “clean coal” as a key part of the American energy mixture, invoking a phrase popularized by a multimillion dollar coal industry advertising campaign.

    Tuesday’s executive order notably excluded mention of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the accord reached in 2015 that codified national emissions reductions targets with a goal of limiting global temperature increase.

    Pressed by reporters if Trump still believed climate change to be a “Chinese hoax,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer dodged the question and promised that Trump would use his signing statement to elaborate on “what he believes” about climate change.

    But Trump made no mention of climate change in his remarks, and made only a brief reference to the work of EPA officials to protect natural resources.