Apple CEO says climate change is here with wildfires, hurricanes, flooding

In an interview with The Atlantic, Tim Cook discusses Trump, antitrust and his company's response to the coronavirus.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
3 min read

Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, said he tries to focus on policy, not politics.

James Martin/CNET

Get Tim Cook talking about privacy, renewable energy or even the coronavirus pandemic, and he's happy to give you his perspective. Talk about President Donald Trump, and he almost immediately wants to change the topic.

The dynamic played out several times with Cook, who participates in only a handful of interviews per year, while talking with the Atlantic's editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, in a video-recorded interview Monday. 

Goldberg asked about Cook's conversations with Trump, who's invited the Apple CEO to White House events on manufacturing and the economy. Cook said he didn't want to share them out of respect for Trump's privacy. Goldberg asked how Cook would rate America's response to the coronavirus. Cook once again declined.

Watch this: President Trump calls Tim Cook 'Tim Apple'

"I think that this virus caught the world by surprise, and it's significant," Cook said in the video chat, taped shortly after Apple announced the new Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, iPad Air, 8th generation iPad and some new subscription services too last week. "I think there will be time for lots of lessons learned about things that we could all be better, and I hope that we take a hard look at that as we get on the other side of the virus."

Apple Watch SE
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Apple Watch SE

The Apple Watch SE, starting at $279, is designed to be a more affordable cousin to the $399 Apple Watch Series 6.


The exchange, which was a short part of Cook's interview, served as a reminder about how carefully the tech CEO treats his relationship with the White House. Cook, who is openly gay and vocally supports environmentalism, immigration reform and inclusion, doesn't appear to agree with Trump on nearly anything. He's criticized the Trump administration's efforts to shutter the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. He's spoken out on Trump's travel ban and the president's decision to bar transgender people from serving in the military.

But he continues to regularly travel to Washington and have conversations with the White House, including Trump.

"My whole philosophy is engagement," he said. "I believe that it's much better to to be involved, whether you're in agreement on an issue or it's even more important to engage when you disagree on something. So what we do at Apple is we focus on policy. Don't focus on the politics."

The way that shows up is that Cook talks up his company's commitment to run on 100% renewable energy by 2030. But with the western state fires upending life in Silicon Valley, he said he hopes others will get the message too.

"I think the sum total of all of these the wildfires in the West, that's essentially burning millions of acres in the West, and hurricanes in the South, my hometown, the flooding that's taken place in the northeast and the mid-Atlantic region," he said. "All of these together I do believe will convince the people that are not currently convinced about climate change ."

Cook, who told Goldberg he doesn't intend to retire from Apple anytime soon, said that about 15% of Apple employees were in the office and that he sometimes is in the office as well. He also acknowledged that things likely won't return to the way they were, but he also believes the serendipity that comes from people working together and having conversations. "It's not like being together physically," he said. "I can't wait for everybody to be able to come back into the office."