Treasury Secretary Steve Munchin dismissed the concerns of Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg on Thursday, telling her to wait until she has an economics degree before she advises countries how to handle energy policy.
Thunberg, 17, spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday. She made an impassioned plea for the world to immediately stop using and investing in fossil fuels.
“I wonder, what will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing a climate chaos that you knowingly brought upon them?” she asked. “That it seemed so bad for the economy that we decided to resign the idea of securing future living conditions without even trying?”
When asked about her comments during a news conference in Davos, Munchin asked, “Is she the chief economist? Who is she? I’m confused.” He then explained he was joking about not having heard of her.
“After she goes and studies economics in college, she can come back and explain that to us,” he added.
President Donald Trump has also taken jabs at Thunberg in recent months.
When asked about Thunberg in Davos during an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump said he “really didn’t know anything about her,” but she’s “very angry.”
After the teenager was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year in December, Trump tweeted, “So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”
When Thunberg visited the U.S. in September, Trump sarcastically tweeted, “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.”
Before leaving Davos, Trump advised the gathering of the world’s financial and governmental leaders to “reject the perennial prophets of doom” on climate change, comparing activists and alarmists to “fortune tellers.”
Trump attacks teen: Trump attacks Greta Thunberg for being Time’s ‘Person of the Year’
At a CNBC forum, Mnuchin defended the environmental record of the Trump administration and said, “I think there’s a misinterpretation as to what our view is.”
“The U.S. administration very clearly believes in clean air and clean water,” he said. “We have been very focused on technology to have cleaner energy in the U.S. And without a lot of government intervention, our private industry has been moving in that direction.
“We very much support that countries should be doing things where there are environmental issues, particularly in the air and water,” he said. “We’re very proud of our record there.”
But, when it came to reducing carbon emissions, Mnuchin said it was important to consider the economic impacts.
“The president was very clear: The reason we got out of the Paris agreement was we thought it was an unfair agreement to the U.S,” he said.
He mentioned that he used to love driving his Tesla, but he said switching to electric vehicles raises its own set of concerns, such as how the electricity is generated and how the batteries are safely disposed of.
“I think this is a very complicated issue,” Mnuchin said.
“From the U.S. standpoint, we support a clean environment, we just believe it should be done in a way that can also be pro-business and thoughtful.”
Contributing: The Associated Press