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No climate change, but talk of trees

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Donald Trump didn’t mention a topic many scientists say will be the defining issue of the 21st century: climate change. The closest the more than hour-long speech came to mentioning global warming was a plug for the One Trillion Trees Initiative, a private-public partnership that aims to plant new trees globally.

Instead, in what critics are calling an indirect rebuke of the whole idea of greenhouse gas-induced global warming, Trump touted America’s growing production of greenhouse gas-producing fossil fuels.

While the president’s remarks might not be surprising given his administration’s approach to global warming since he took office in 2017, the absence further alarmed scientists already concerned about a lack of action from global leaders at a time when the Earth just finished its hottest decade in the historical record and the second-warmest year.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in energy, industry and transportation will be needed in the next 10 years to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, as Vice President Mike Pence ad House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, listen.

“The U.S. has an obligation to lead on the great challenges we face as a civilization — with climate change at the very top,” said Michael Mann, a professor of meteorology and director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pennslyvania.

Overall, 86% of Democrats, 55% of Republicans and 78% of independents say they want to reduce the effects of global climate change, a Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos survey published last month found.

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