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Trump dodges climate change question despite its effect on Florida

He echoes the little dog in the burning house saying, ‘This is fine,’ but Hurricane Beryl shows it’s not

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Happy Fourth of July! Let’s talk about what caused some fireworks last week.

There was a debate that created a bit of an uproar. One of the participants had a sore throat and a stutter, which led some n-n-nervous Nellies to say he should drop out.

I wasn’t watching him, though. I was watching the other guy — you know, the convicted felon from Florida.

Someone I know complained that during the debate, Donald Trump spat out lies like a machine gun spits out bullets. But that rat-a-tat of fabrications wasn’t what caught my attention, either.

No, I was watching for the questions from the two CNN moderators that this ex-reality show host didn’t want to answer. Normally he blathers along whether he knows what he’s talking about or not. For example, look at his rambling story about electric boats and sharks.

What I was looking for were issues where he knew even a lie could be dangerous, so he evaded the question.

There were four questions where he would’ve made the crusty old coach from the movie “Dodgeball” proud of how he followed the five D’s: dodge, dip, duck, dive, and dodge.

Three were about child care, fentanyl, and accepting the 2024 election results even if he loses. The fourth concerned climate change.

The response he delivered to that one was a doozy — the kind of non-answer so off-the-wall you wonder if you heard right. To be sure, I checked the official transcript.

Moderator Dana Bash noted that 2023 was the hottest year on record and cities across the country have been coping with “extreme heat, intensifying wildfires, stronger hurricanes, and rising sea levels.”

Then she said, “Former President Trump, you’ve vowed to end your opponent’s climate initiatives. But will you take any action as President to slow the climate crisis?”

Instead of replying, he talked about everything else he could think of. He talked about criminal justice reform and historically black colleges. He praised Sen. Tim Scott’s disastrous opportunity zone program. He claimed millions of illegal immigrants are pouring across the border (they’re not).

When he finished dishing out that heaping helping of word salad, Bash said, “38 seconds left, President Trump. Will you take any action as president to slow the climate crisis?”

Trump dodged again.

“So, I want absolutely immaculate clean water and I want absolutely clean air, and we had it,” he babbled. “We had H2O.”

H2O? You mean you had water? Did you use two hands to drink it?

I think that was when I started humming the Bee Gees hit, “Jive Talking.”

But Trump wasn’t done with his ridiculous response.

“We had the best numbers ever,” he said without specifying what kind of numbers he meant. Prime? Ratings? Octane? “And we did — we were using all forms of energy, all forms, everything. And yet, during my four years, I had the best environmental numbers ever. And my top environmental people gave me that statistic just before I walked on the stage, actually.”

Instead of pointing out that Trump had again evaded the question, Bash and co-moderator Jake Tapper turned to President Joe Biden. He sputtered, “I don’t know where the hell he has been.”

I’ll tell you where he’s been: hiding from the truth. Because nowhere is climate change more obvious than here in Florida, no matter what our governor and Legislature say.

You can even see it from Mar-a-Lago.

Very costly and disruptive

As with abortion, Trump has over the years taken more than one position on fighting climate change. Like John Kerry on Afghanistan and Iraq, he was for it before he was against it.

In 2009, for instance, he signed onto a letter from business leaders to then-President Obama that called for passage of climate legislation, investment in clean energy, and leadership to inspire the rest of the world to join the fight against climate change (i.e., Biden’s record).

When he ran for president the first time in 2016, he told us voters that climate change was “a total hoax” and “pseudoscience.” Meanwhile, though, he was applying for a permit to build a 2-mile rock wall to protect his seaside golf resort in Ireland from “global warming and its effects.”

When the Electoral College put him in office (despite losing the popular vote), he did his best to shut down federal efforts to wean the U.S. from fossil fuels. I don’t just mean pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords, either. (After all those restrictions are voluntary.)

He pushed for utilities to burn more “clean, beautiful coal,” even though burning it does NOT lead to “absolutely clean air.”

He rolled back the offshore drilling rules put in place after the BP oil spill.

Despite his promise to “drain the swamp,” he hired ex-lobbyists and corporate lawyers for polluters such as the oil and gas industry to lead the federal agencies concerned with regulating pollution. Fox, meet henhouse.

Scientists tried to convince him that he was wrong on climate change. One group of 26 Florida scientists sent him a letter offering to meet with him. They explained that climate change leads to an increase in severe weather, sea level rise, coral bleaching, and the spread of tropical diseases like Zika, West Nile Virus, and Dengue fever — all occurring in or near Florida.

I talked to one of the letter’s signers, Jeff Chanton of Florida State University. He told me they never got any response from Trump, who prefers yes-men who jump to do his bidding or random people who call him “sir” with tears in their eyes

If they’d been able to talk to Trump, Chanton said, they would have explained how natural phenomena such as seasonal temperature changes have been thrown off by human pollution of the atmosphere. He noted how the hyper-heated ocean water turned Beryl from a tropical depression into a monstrous Category 5 hurricane ripping through the Caribbean in a matter of 42 hours. Climate disruption isn’t cheap to deal with.

“It’s very costly and very disruptive and it’s going to affect the economy and how people live,” he told me.

The lack of a response from Trump, he said, was similar to the time he and a smaller group of scientists met with another denier, then-Gov. Rick “I Wear This Navy Hat Because My Waterfront Mansion Will Soon Float Away” Scott.

The future senator hustled them out of his office in less than 30 minutes and didn’t change his tune. Now he’s endorsed Trump for reelection.

They both own oceanfront homes, but only one seems in danger from rising seas.

Like a frog on a lily pad

Trump purchased the Palm Beach mansion called Mar-a-Lago in 1985 but didn’t move in. It was just an ostentations vacation home, one created for cereal heir Marjorie Merriwether Post by the set designer for theatrical impresario Flo Ziegfield.

Mired in financial difficulties in 1994, Trump turned it into a private club where people paid for memberships. When he became president, it became his Winter White House. Finally, in 2019, he declared it his official residence, following other brash Noo Yawkers who’ve relocated to the Sunshine State.

I have a theory that this is why he lost in 2020. No one from Florida has ever been elected president. Of course, it could also be a widespread rejection of his dismal presidential record.

Either way, once he was pushed out (despite his insurrectionist efforts), he retreated to a home on an island, to live in a building named “sea to lake.”

Curious about Mar-a-Lago’s vulnerability to rising seas, I contacted Les Standiford, author of a wonderful history of the place called “Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago, and the Rise of America’s Xanadu.” If you’d like to know more about America’s most glamorous crime scene, you should read it.

Standiford told me Trump is unlikely to see any personal consequences for his work accelerating climate change. It will swamp the property, but not the house.

“Worst case scenario for the end of the century is five or six feet of sea level rise, so the structure of Mar-a-Lago is probably safe, though there wouldn’t be much by way of beach and it’s going to lose a lot of its grounds,” Standiford said.

With his mansion safe, Trump will still feel invincible in the face of the elements. Remember, he told the Conservative Political Action Committee in 2022 that rising sea levels are just “giving you slightly more seafront property”.

“Thus,” Standiford continued, “since we know Mr. Trump is exempt from the laws that govern the rest of humanity, we can expect him to be perched there like a frog on a lily pad in the year 2100 at the age of 154.”

But the rest of Palm Beach County won’t be so lucky.

‘This is fine’

The reason Trump wouldn’t respond to that debate question is because the answer would be a flat-out no. He won’t do a single thing to combat climate change. He knows if he’d said that on TV, it might alienate undecided voters.

He’s been begging oil industry execs to plunk down a billion or so to fuel his campaign in exchange for him rolling back every climate-related rule from Biden. His own website says he wants to revive the days of “drill, baby, drill,” returning us to the lack of oversight that led to the BP oil spill.

“On Day One, President Trump will rescind every one of Joe Biden’s industry-killing, jobs-killing, pro-China, and anti-American electricity regulations,” the website says. It neglects to mention that the U.S. oil and gas industry  has produced more crude than any other nation during Biden’s term in office.

Once the debate was over, Trump went back to mocking climate concerns.

“Global warming is fine,” he said at a Virginia rally on June 28. “I heard it was going to be very warm today. It’s fine.”

Trump didn’t realize it, but he was echoing the popular meme of the little dog in the middle of a house fire murmuring, “This is fine.” But it’s not fine. At a rally in Arizona last month, nearly a dozen Trump supporters passed out from the extreme heat.

Usually when I look at Trump’s elaborate combover and hear his apocalyptic squawk, he reminds me of a different pop culture figure: Immortal Joe from “Mad Max: Fury Road,” bellowing to the water-starved multitude, “I am your redeemer! It is by my hand that you arise from the ashes of this world!”

But the world we live in isn’t starved for H2O. The stuff is steadily rising over the land, especially in super-flat Florida. Just talk to the resilience director of Palm Beach County, Megan Houston.

When I asked her what impacts from climate change they’re already experiencing in Palm Beach, she said, “Extreme heat, sea level rise, rainfall induced flooding, and shoreline recession are some of the current impacts we face.”

How hot is it? “Palm Beach County’s annual average temperature has increased 2.3 degrees since 1895,” the Palm Beach Post reported five years ago.

That warmer air holds more moisture, which is why torrential rains are more likely. Remember last year when Fort Lauderdale was hit by a “rain-bomb” that broke records for a 24-hour event? It was preceded by something similar in Palm Beach.

So much rain fell there in 24 hours that it broke a record set in 1897. There were “tropical storm-force gusts, sprinkles of ice, and booming thunder,” thanks to “an explosive 35,069 lightning events,” the Palm Beach Post reported.

Trump reeeeally hates the rain. I don’t know if it’s because he fears his combover will come undone or he’s allergic to the smell of petrichor. But he hates it more than soul singer Ann Peebles, who recorded “I Can’t Stand the Rain.”

Remember in 2018 when he skipped a ceremony to honor fallen World War I soldiers in France because of a downpour? He sent his chief of staff, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, who later said that Trump called those dead Marines “suckers” and “losers.”

My suggestion is to hold the next debate in Florida on a day when the forecast calls for 100 percent precipitation, which in the summer happens a lot. Let’s see if he even shows up. If he does, then ask that sucker and loser those questions he dodged last time.

Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Michael Moline for questions: info@floridaphoenix.com. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and X.

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