Trump’s swipe at ‘prophets of doom’

US President Trump and Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg have delivered opposing speeches at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, just hours before the US leader's impeachment trial began in Washington DC.

President Trump took aim at "perennial prophets of doom" and hailed a "great American comeback" in his keynote 30 minute speech that was heavy on economic statistics and the virtues of European architecture.

"When I spoke at this forum two years ago, I told you we had launched the great American comeback," Trump said.

He claimed the country had undergone an "economic boom the likes of which the world has never seen" and the US had "reawakened the powerful machinery of American enterprise" through a "blue-collar boom."

"America is winning again like never before," he said, hailing renegotiated trade deals with China and the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada as a blueprint for other nations.

 

 

 

The US leader, who is famously sceptical on climate change, announced the country would join a one trillion trees initiative launched at the WEF and took a swipe at climate change activists such as Thunberg for their world view.

"This is not a time for pessimism, this is a time for optimism," he said.

"To embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial profits of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse. They are the heirs of yesterday's foolish fortune tellers.

"They want to see us do badly, but we don't let that happen," he said.

"They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the 70s, and an end of oil in the 80s.

"They always want to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives. We will never let radical socialism destroy our economy and wreck our country or eradicate our liberty."

Ahead of his speech, the US leader was asked if Thunberg was "right on climate change" and professed he was a "big believer in the environment."

"The environment to me is very important," he said.

US President Donald Trump arrives on Marine One Picture: AP Photo/Michael Probst.
US President Donald Trump arrives on Marine One Picture: AP Photo/Michael Probst.

 

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The US leader's comments contrasted sharply with those of Swedish climate champion Thunberg who addressed the world leaders directly, saying "the world, in case you haven't noticed, is on fire."

She referenced President Trump's comments directly, saying young people are told "don't be so pessimistic" only to be faced with a lack of action from leaders.

"Silence. Or something worse than silence, empty words and promises which give the impression that sufficient action is being taken," she said.

The teenager said the world is "running out of time" and demanded that WEF participants halt all investments in fossil fuel extraction and exploration immediately.

"It may seem like we are asking for a lot … but this is just the very minimum amount of effort that is needed."

"Unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight. The facts are clear but they are still too uncomfortable for you to address," she said.

"People will not give up. You are the ones who are giving up.

"What will you tell your children? … Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fuelling the flames by the hour. And we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else."

US President Donald Trump will give a keynote speech on Tuesday, as his impeachment trial is set to begin. Picture: AP Photo/Evan Vucci.
US President Donald Trump will give a keynote speech on Tuesday, as his impeachment trial is set to begin. Picture: AP Photo/Evan Vucci.

The clashing attitudes were also evident in their modes of transport. President Trump arrived on Air Force One to Zurich and took presidential helicopter Marine One to the event, while Thunberg took a 32-hour train from her native Sweden.

Trump and Thunberg have clashed before, famously at the UN Assembly last year when Thunberg was pictured staring daggers at Trump's back.

The President tweeted she had an "anger management problem" and should go to "a good old fashioned movie with a friend".

"Chill Greta, Chill!" he said.

The comments prompted Greta to change her Twitter bio to echo his words, saying she was a "teenager working on her anger management problem."

The President was due to meet with the leaders of Iraq, Pakistan and the head of the European Commission at the event before returning to Washington on Wednesday.

His appearance came just hours before an impeachment trial in the Senate began.

While Trump is almost certain to be acquitted in the trial which will be held in the Republican-controlled Senate, it will generate unwelcome headlines in an election year for the president.