Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday dismissed Greta Thunberg’s call for countries around the world to immediately divest from fossil fuel investments, saying that the teen climate activist should study college economics before making such requests.
“Is she the chief economist? Who is she, I’m confused,” Mnuchin said during a press conference on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, The Guardian reported.
Mnuchin added that his remark was a “joke.” But he then continued to push back on Thunberg’s credentials to speak on problems related to climate change and fossil fuel investments.
“After she goes and studies economics in college she can come back and explain that to us,” Mnuchin said, echoing the sentiments that President Trump has expressed about Thunberg. Trump earlier this week described the Swedish teen as “very angry.”
Mnuchin also argued that divestment would significantly hurt the economy and jobs.
“Many economies are transitioning to more efficient and cleaner energy. That doesn’t have to be all renewables,” he asserted.
Thunberg rose to prominence in 2019 after sparking a youth movement that calls on world leaders to enforce stronger policies to combat climate change. Her advocacy led to thousands of students participating in climate change protests around the globe last spring.
While participating in a climate-focused forum at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday, Thunberg said that world leaders were “fueling the flames” of climate change through their inaction. She also pushed for ending fossil fuel investment and subsidies for the industry, saying that the move must take place to combat global warming.
“You might think we’re naive but if you won’t do it, you must explain to your children why you’ve given up on the Paris agreement goals and knowingly created a climate crisis,” she said, The Guardian noted.
The Trump administration has faced a high level of scrutiny over its approach to environmental issues. Trump last November formally pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, a pact signed by hundreds of nations to reduce emissions.
As he addressed a crowd at Davos on Tuesday, Trump also appeared to take a veiled swipe at Thunberg and other activists stressing the need for a reform to environmental policies.
“To embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse. They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers,” he said.