Bernie Sanders says oil company knows more about climate change than 'pathetic' Donald Trump

Andrew Buncombe
Mr Sanders has long warned of the dangers of climate change: AP

Bernie Sanders has claimed that an oil company “understands more about climate change” than Donald Trump, after ExxonMobil urged the government not to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord.

In a letter to the government, a senior official from the US’s largest oil company, said the accord signed in 2015 was “an effective framework for addressing the risks of climate change”.

“It is prudent that the United States remain a party to the Paris agreement to ensure a level playing field, so that global energy markets remain as free and competitive as possible,” wrote Peter Trelenberg, Exxon’s manager for environmental policy and planning.

He said that the US was well-placed to be internationally competitive within the framework of Paris, thanks to its abundant natural gas reserves and its “innovative private industries, including the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors”.

News of the letter, which was first reported by the Financial Times, was seized on by Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.

“It is pathetic that the largest oil company in the world understands more about climate change than the president of the United States,” Mr Sanders wrote on Twitter.

The letter to the White House was sent last week. Several other large international oil companies, including some in Europe, have also backed action to address climate change that could benefit them by boosting demand for gas.

The existence of the letter has drawn attention to what many believe is a blind-spot in the Trump administration’s world view - namely its effective rejection of climate change science.

Mr Trump has said his “default position” is that climate change is bogus. This week, the New York tycoon signed several executive orders that rolled back several of Barack Obama’s climate policies.

The government has repeatedly not yet decided whether it will keep the US as part of the Paris accord.

Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said last weekend that the Paris accord was a “just a bad deal”.

Other members of the administration are said to support staying part it. Those officials include defence secretary James Mattis and Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon chief executive who is now secretary of state.

During the 2016 election campaign when Mr Sanders challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s nomination, the former Burlington mayor stressed the need to address climate change.

He routinely mocked Mr Trump, especially over his suggestion that concern about climate change was a myth that originated in Beijing.

“One of his major scientific contributions in recent years has been to proclaim that climate change is a hoax,” Mr Sanders said at a rally in February 2016.

“Now, for Republican candidates, this is not an unusual idea, but he added something to it, being the brilliant scientist that he is: that this hoax was created by the Chinese.”