Monday, October 22, 2018

Trump and Hurricanes are like Oil and Water

Trump does not do hurricanes well. In fact it would be fair to say that Trump relates to hurricanes the way oil mixes with water. Maybe it has something to do with his lack of empathy, perhaps it has to do with the fact that every extreme weather event exposes the irrationality of his rejection of climate science and highlights the insanity of this administration's energy agenda.  A succession of once in a lifetime storms provides tangible support for the veracity of climate change.  However, Trump is not one to accept reality unless it suits him. When he is confronted with the facts Trump does what he does best, he lies.

Extreme weather wreaked havoc in Asia this year. This includes extreme rainfalls, flooding and landslides in Japan, Vietnam, and China. At least 78 were killed by Typhoon Mangkhut. But these events did not seem to register for Trump, which given his America First policy should come as no surprise.

In the span of ten days two hurricanes slammed into the heart of Trump country. Hurricane Florence drenched the US East Coast and killed 53 people, Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida panhandle and is known to have killed 36 so far. Florence brought devastating rains and Michael turned out to be one the strongest storms ever to hit Florida with wind speeds surpassing 155 miles an hour.

"They say that we had hurricanes that were far worse than what we just had with Michael," Trump told 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stahl who went on to ask, "What about the scientists who say it's worse than ever?" the president replied, "You'd have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda."

Casting aspersions on the scientists who point out the link between hurricanes and climate change is an example of Trump's deflection, one of the many ways he obfuscates. Trump completely ignores attribution science including the most recent research that links climate change to Hurricane Florence.

In a move that speaks to Trump's insensitivity he held a rally as Hurricane Michael ravaged parts of northern Florida. A day after Hurricane Michael made landfall Trump met with Kanye West in a surreal White House spectacle. When Trump visited a FEMA aid distribution center in Lynn Haven the next day he proclaimed, "we've called for maximum relief." He also made a number of confusing comments including his conviction that those involved in the recovery efforts are "doing more than anybody would have ever done" and Trump called Hurricane Florence "very wet, in terms of water". It all reads like a comedy and it would be laughable if these were not comments uttered by a man who is the leader of the world's most powerful nation.

Trump is perhaps most disliked for kicking people when they are down as he did to San Juan's Mayor Carmen Yulin, Cruz. After Hurricane Maria hit San Juan was devastated and Mayor Cruz pleaded for help Trump responded by calling her "totally incompetent". He did something similar recently when he attacked Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum just before Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle.

Polls show that Gillum is poised to beat Trump's candidate Ron DeSantis in the forthcoming Florida Gubernatorial election. Trump is the kind of man who is not above trying to score political points by attacking people who are facing calamity. This flagrant disregard for the suffering and death of Americans does not offer very good optics.  

Some Republicans may respond well to Trump's callousness and his resistance to the science, some may even mistake it for strength. However, the polls suggest the majority of Americans are not impressed.. Those outside of his base see him in a far less flattering light. With a 60 percent disapproval rating, he is one of the most unpopular presidents in history. His propensity for being insensitive colors the way Trump is seen by broad swaths of the American public.

These negative perceptions are corroborated by Trump's actions on the ground. Some of his most insensitive remarks were directed at Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Trump is infamous for handing out paper towels as Puerto Ricans were trying to cope with the widespread devastation caused by two successive hurricanes. With total losses estimated at upwards of  more than $91 billion Hurricane Maria is one of the most costly storms on record, it is also one of the most lethal. As people were dying last October Trump was quick to commend his administration for doing a  "tremendous job". He even had the audacity to brag about the low death toll.

According to a George Washington University study commissioned by the governor of Puerto Rico, there were 2,975 fatalities attributed to Maria. Another independent analysis from public health experts at Harvard University estimates that 5,740 people likely died as a result of the hurricane. The official death toll now stands at 3,057.

Trump demonstrated that his insensitivity knows no bounds when he continued to tout his administration's hurricane relief efforts even after it became clear that the death toll in Puerto Rico was far worse than he had originally claimed. Trump and the White House simply refused to accept the facts. Press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump "remains proud of all of the work the Federal family undertook to help our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico."  To which Mayor Cruz responded, "what is there to be proud of? 2,970 dead. Is that what he's proud of?"

Mayor Cruz pulled no punches saying the administration led her to believe they were helping when they weren't. She blamed Trump, the federal government and Puerto Rican officials for failing to provide adequate assistance in the aftermath of Maria. "Many of them died because of what was done by the administration and that was silently approved by most of the political class in Puerto Rico," Cruz told CNN. "The administration killed the Puerto Ricans with neglect," Cruz said, adding "Shame on President Trump."

Trump's most recent  statements reinforce the view that in addition to being dishonest he is woefully misguided.  He made ridiculous statements about climate change and touted his "instinct" for science, he even called himself an "environmentalist". Although these comments may seem outlandish, this should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the seemingly endless succession of lies streaming out of his administration.

Later in the same interview he said Washington is, "the most deceptive, vicious world. It is vicious, it's full of lies, deceit and deception." This is how Trump rolls-out from underneath his mountain of subterfuge. He tries to deflect attention away from his dishonesty by saying others are doing what he himself is guilty of. His go to move is a twisted game of, "I know you are but what am I".  The fact that this kind of schoolyard banter is coming from the man who occupies the Oval Office is troubling to say the least. Trump's callousness makes his puerile behavior that much more unsettling.

Trump is a painful combination of ignorance and insensitivity. Trump is a nightmare and not just for climate action. Rather the combat the conditions that fuel these hurricanes, this president is stoking the fires of climate change and adding to the likelihood of even more devastating storms.

President Obama seamlessly assumed the role of comforter-and-chief whereas Trump's response has added insult to injury. Presidents like Calvin Coolidge and George W. Bush were hurt by their response to extreme weather events and Mitt Romney's presidential bid was hobbled by Hurricane Sandy.

When it comes to the connection between hurricanes and climate change it is a contest between the facts and the world's leading purveyor of fake news.  It remains to be seen whether Teflon Don can manage to avoid being singed by the encroaching heat.

The Implications of Trump's Reprehensible Rejection of Climate Science
Best Evidence Yet that Climate Tipping Points Threaten to Push Us Past the Point of No Return
IPCC Study Offers Another Dose of Climate Reality
Trump's Climate Denial as Puerto Ricans Continue to Die in the Wake of Hurricane Maria
Trump's Climate Denial the GOP and Fossil Fuels
Attribution Science Connecting Hurricane Florence to Climate Change
Attribution Science Proves that Climate Change is Deadly
The Eye of the Storm: Hurricane Matthew, Attribution Science and Climate Change (Video)
Growing Levels of GHGs are Warming the Planet and Contributing to Disasters
Trump's Climate Denial Makes Storms and Wildfires Worse
Hurricane Harvey and Trump's Hypocritical Resistance to Climate Resilience
Hurricane Harvey and the State of Climate Science
US Hurricanes and the GOP's Climate Denial
Biblical Rains in South Carolina are Consistent with Climate Change
Louisiana Flooding Climate Change and the Politics of Ignorance

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