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Sparks

Trump’s Climate Sneak Peek in Iowa

Sprinkled throughout Trump’s victory speech were a few anti-climate lines you’re likely to hear again.

Donald Trump.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

On Monday night, former President Donald Trump handily won what will officially go down as the coldest caucus in Iowa’s history.

The global warming jokes, naturally, wrote themselves. But in his freewheeling, name-dropping, teleprompter-free victory speech in Des Moines, Trump showed uncharacteristic restraint in avoiding the low-hanging comedic fruit.

Perhaps it was because Trump’s mind was on other things: his civil damages trial that begins in New York City on Tuesday, say. Or maybe, as I suspect, it was part of a larger trend that has come to shape Trump’s third presidential campaign — that he’s honing his attacks on climate science and the energy transition for the 2024 race.

Certainly, Trump’s Iowa speech featured some of his favorite one-liners from the campaign trail. “He comes all the way from Missouri, which isn’t that far,” Trump said at one point in an apparent reference to Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, one of numerous surrogates who’d helped with a ground game Trump hadn’t seemed terribly interested in trying himself. “Couldn’t drive an electric car that far, though,” Trump added to laughs — a variation of a jab about range anxiety that he’s been trotting out at his rallies. (Des Moines to the Missouri border is 76 miles, which even the least efficient EVs could make without stopping; most new EVs on the market could also make it to the capital, Jefferson City — 255 miles away — on a single charge).

Trump also made enthusiastic references to “drilling,” promising we’ll do a whole lot of it if he gets the White House back. “We have to stop the invasion, we have to bring down the energy — you know, I say all the time, we have more liquid gold under our feet than any other nation anywhere in the world — and we have to stop the crime and we have to help rebuild our cities,” Trump went on, distracted from his usual script, which typically involves an additional story about President Biden “begging” Venezuela for oil.

Trump had also spoken in specifics earlier in the evening when he’d told would-be voters that “I stood up for ethanol like nobody has ever stood up for it” — another dig at Biden’s climate agenda, which has aimed to limit liquid fuel in vehicles, a sensitive issue for Iowa voters during their primary season.

But if Americans could agree on anything this week, it’s that it’s cold. Between the Iowa caucuses and Tuesday night, more than three-quarters of the country will experience temperatures below freezing — weather that will shatter over 200 winter temperature records, all told. And while that might lend itself to unoriginal jokes among conservatives, scientists say the arctic blast is exactly the kind of extreme event we can expect more of in a climate-changed world.

On Sunday, Trump mocked any alarm that might instill in people — including his own supporters — by telling a group of climate protesters that interrupted his rally to “go home to mommy. Your mommy’s waiting.”

But nowhere is safe, and there are a long 11 months and three seasons to go before the next election. Still, some things can grimly be assumed to be forgone: Trump will almost certainly be the Republican candidate. And whatever comes next, it will be worse.

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Jeva Lange profile image

Jeva Lange

Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City.

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