WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump dismissed a landmark report compiled by 13 federal agencies detailing how damage from global warming is intensifying throughout the country, saying that he is not among the "believers" who see climate change as a pressing problem.
The comments marked Mr Trump's most extensive yet on why he disagrees with his own government's analysis, which found that climate change poses a severe threat to the health of Americans, as well as to the country's infrastructure, economy and natural resources.
The findings - unequivocal, urgent and alarming - are at odds with the Trump administration's rollback of environmental regulations and absence of any climate action policy.
"One of the problems is that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence, but we are not necessarily such believers," Mr Trump said during a freewheeling 20-minute Oval Office interview with The Washington Post, in which he was asked why he was sceptical of the dire National Climate Assessment.
"As to whether or not it is man-made and whether or not the effects that you are talking about are there, I don't see it," he added.
Mr Trump did not address the fundamental cause of climate change. He riffed on pollution in other parts of the world. He talked about trash in the oceans. He opined on forest management practices. But he said little about what scientists say is actually driving the warming of the planet - emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.
"You look at our air and our water, and it is right now at a record clean. But when you look at China and you look at parts of Asia and you look at South America, and when you look at many other places in this world, including Russia, including many other places, the air is incredibly dirty, and when you are talking about an atmosphere, oceans are very small," Mr Trump said in an apparent reference to pollution around the world.
Professor Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, said Mr Trump's comments risk leaving the country vulnerable to the ever-growing impacts of a warming planet.
"Facts are not something we need to believe to make them true - we treat them as optional at our peril," she said. "And if we are the president of the United States, we do so at the peril of not just ourselves, but the hundreds of millions of people we are responsible for."
Atmospheric sciences professor Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M University struggled to find a response to the President's comments.
"How can one possibly respond to this?" Prof Dessler said, adding that Mr Trump's main motivation seemed to be attacking the environmental policies of the Obama administration and criticising political adversaries.