Dear World: On Climate, Donald Trump Doesn’t Speak for the United States of America

The American people believe in climate change—and are committed to doing something about it.

June 15, 2018

German chancellor Angela Merkel speaking with U.S. President Trump at the G7 conference in Canada, June 2018

Jesco Denzel/German Federal Government via Associated Press

Dear G7 (G6?) Leaders:

First, let me just say on behalf of the United States of America: We are so, so sorry.

We all knew that something like this could happen, theoretically. To be honest, we were all so freaked out about the president’s other big meeting this week (the one right after yours) that we sort of thought the G7 summit was the “safe” one that we didn’t need to worry about. After all, in Quebec, he was going to be around our country’s closest, most trusted friends and trading partners. Even if he didn’t see eye-to-eye with all of you on everything, we figured he wouldn’t, y’know, sit there and pout like an obstinate child, or rudely show up late to a session on gender equality and then not even bother to listen, or egregiously insult the leader of the summit’s host country—America’s strongest ally—with some sort of petulant post-summit outburst on Twitter, or anything like that.

At least that’s what we told ourselves. We were wrong.

Now, for the intended purpose of my letter: the global fight against climate change. As you know, our president skipped out of the G7 summit early, just before all of you were going to discuss different ways to finance the various carbon-reduction plans made under the terms of the Paris climate agreement. In your jointly authored communiqué—the one that Trump angrily rejected later—you vigorously reaffirm your respective commitments to “ambitious climate action” and “reducing emissions while stimulating innovation, enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening and financing resilience and reducing vulnerability.” You stipulate the need for an international effort to clean up our shared ocean environments. And you formally dedicate your countries to the essential mission of creating a global carbon-neutral economy before the end of the century, vowing “to promote the fight against climate change through collaborative partnerships and work with all relevant partners.”

Thank you.

Unfortunately, our president couldn’t get behind these goals. In place of his stated support, he had his team interpolate an awkward, semantically tortured paragraph into the communiqué, a moral carve-out making clear his belief that securing “universal access to affordable and reliable energy resources” should be prioritized above climate action. And then, halfway down this paragraph, was what poker players call the “tell”—that little tic that lets you know what the player sitting across the table from you is really thinking. Trump’s tell is the wording indicating that the United States wants to “work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently.”

Yes, in a section of your communiqué titled “Working Together on Climate Change, Oceans and Clean Energy,” our country actually went out of its way to give a warm shout-out to fossil fuels—singling them out by name—and furthermore to express its desire to help other countries around the world increase their own fossil fuel consumption. Trust me, we feel your pain.

President Macron: According to lore, your political predecessor, Louis XIV, bequeathed to the world a pithy phrase that perfectly distills the monarchical mindset of ancient regimes: “L’etat, c’est moi.” I am the state.

Given his historical benightedness, President Trump is most likely unfamiliar with that phrase or its provenance. Nevertheless, he understands the sentiment behind it on an intuitive, almost instinctive, level. In his speeches, his actions, and his tweets, he indicates daily that he believes he is the state wholeheartedly.

But along with this apology for our president’s behavior at the G7 summit, we would also like to assure you that President Trump is wrong about this (just as he is wrong about so many other things). President Trump is not the United States of America—especially when it comes to climate and the environment.

The United States of America is, instead, 325 million people, the vast majority of whom share your concerns about a warming climate and your commitment to cleaning up our polluted air and oceans. The USA is states and cities working diligently—and together—to fight climate change and its ravages by reducing carbon emissions, investing in renewable energy, and building climate-resilient communities. It is businesses, NGOs, students, and religious organizations that are coming together to craft a new paradigm to launch us, along with the rest of the world community, into the clean energy future.

But I have a feeling that you already know that. You already know that President Trump, when he’s speaking about fossil fuels or renewable energy or the Paris climate agreement, isn’t speaking for the United States of America. He’s speaking for only a sliver of it: a relatively small population of deniers and dead-enders who have somehow managed to put one of their own in power, albeit temporarily. And while they machinate and manipulate, the rest of America—the hundreds of millions of people that you quite rightfully think of as your good friends and close allies—is making progress toward the goals we share with you and the rest of the world.

The United States hasn’t given up on those goals. Please don’t give up on us.


Embarrassed in America

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

In Conversation

Han Chen, energy policy manager in NRDC’s International Program, keeps the big picture in view as she works to advance a global clean energy transition.

onEarth Story

Thousands of companies are stepping up where the president has stepped down—to save the planet along with their profits.

onEarth Story

How much longer can politicians pretend that it’s a divisive issue?

onEarth Story

More and more European cities are effectively banning automobiles from their city centers—and it seems to be working out just fine for local businesses.

onEarth Story

To ignore this fact—as the Trump administration insists on doing—is to hamper U.S. foreign policy.

onEarth Story

COP24 attendees mocked the Trump administration for its “clean coal” fantasies—while a shadow delegation of climate-conscious Americans quietly worked the room, mending fences.

onEarth Story

Plus, the president looks to autocrats for anti-climate allies, and the Atlantic coastline is about to get really noisy.


The U.N. report warns that dire impacts from climate change will arrive sooner than many expected. Here’s why we need to follow the report’s advice, and why every ton of emissions reductions can make a difference.

onEarth Story

So we’d better get it together and do something NOW.

onEarth Story

The president doesn’t know what the U.N.’s climate report is, Ryan Zinke’s “pay-to-protest” plan, and Andrew Wheeler’s racist index finger.

onEarth Story

Trump won’t sign the G7 climate commitment, Pruitt doesn’t have time for smog limits, and Zinke cancels science.


NRDC senior attorney Ben Longstreth explains how plaintiffs for these cases get chosen—and how you can help advance the cause in or out of the courtroom.


Gun-control activists want to use financial levers to curtail firearm sales. Can we do the same for carbon emissions?

Personal Action

It’s true that aggressive policies and laws are crucial to save the planet. But carbon-cutting actions by individuals can also make a dent (especially when corporations and elected officials take note!). Here are some easy, concrete ways you can make a difference.

onEarth Story

On the first anniversary of the agency’s removal of climate change info from its website, a look back at one of the earth’s roughest years on record and the fight to set things right.

onEarth Story

Today’s young people are finally realizing just how much power their voices actually wield. These millennial climate activists have every intention of using it.

Personal Action

Anxious about where our planet is headed? Tip one: You’re not alone—and that means a lot.

What's At Stake

Climate change poses challenges to our well-being—and the more carbon pollution we put into the air, the worse things will get.

onEarth Story

But denialist lawmakers aren’t going to make it easy.

NRDC in Action

NRDC is working to help make the Global Climate Action Summit a success by inspiring more ambitious commitments to the historic 2015 agreement and enhanced pollution-slashing initiatives.

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.