As Hurricane Florence prepares to pound North and South Carolina with (according to meteorologists) three or four feet of rain, a storm surge of nine to 13 feet and winds of 115 miles per hour or more, an even more powerful storm—Tropical Storm Olivia—is heading for the Philippines and could also affect Hong Kong and southern China. Anyone who grew up in Florida knows that hurricanes (which are called typhoons in the Pacific) are a fact of life in some parts of the world. And with climate change going from bad to worse, hurricanes and typhoons are becoming more intense as well as more common. But even though numerous scientists all over the world realize that climate change is a painful reality, climate change denial is common in the Republican Party—and that includes President Donald Trump, who considers climate change a hoax.
This week, Trump has tried to appear proactive where Hurricane Florence is concerned. But on the whole, hurricanes have not been a high priority for the president—despite the fact that climate change is making them even deadlier.
Here are five ways in which Trump and his administration have been failing miserably where hurricanes are concerned.
1. The Defunding of FEMA
Earlier this week, Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon released a set of documents showing that Trump has defunded the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) by $10 million and used those tax dollars for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) instead. Greater funding for ICE detentions and deportations might play well with the anti-immigrant xenophobes in Trump’s base, but with climate change increasing the severity of hurricanes and other extreme weather events—from tornados to blizzards—defunding FEMA by $10 million is terrible policy.
2. The Defunding of the U.S. Coast Guard
On September 12, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported that not only has the Trump Administration moved $10 million from FEMA to ICE—under Trump’s watch, $29 millionhas been (according to a document from the Department of Homeland Security) diverted from the U.S. Coast Guard to ICE. The U.S. Coast Guard has a long history of saving lives during hurricane season, but as Maddow noted, the Trump Administration has defunded the U.S. Coast Guard by almost “triple what they took from FEMA.”
3. Trump Dropped the Ball Badly in Puerto Rico
In 2017, Hurricane Maria was devastating for Puerto Rico—and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz has been vehemently critical of the way FEMA relief efforts on the island were handled by the Trump Administration. Trump’s administration, Cruz has stressed, didn’t do nearly enough to help Puerto Rico after Maria. And last month, Puerto Rico’s government officially raised the death toll from Hurricane Maria to 2975. Regardless, Trump has maintained that his administration did a “fantastic job” in Puerto Rico.
4. Trump Is a Climate Change Denier
All around the world, scientists have a mountain of evidence showing that climate change is a frightening reality—yet Trump, along with most of the modern Republican Party, insists that climate change is a hoax. And in 2017, Trump reversed Barack Obama-era policy by withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change. Trump’s dogmatic, bitterly partisan view is that if Obama supported something, it must be wrong—and that type of knee-jerk thinking does nothing to help the victims of catastrophic hurricanes.
5. Trump Has Favored Fossil Fuels Over Green Energy
With climate change making hurricanes and other extreme weather events worse, the U.S. desperately needs to pursue a green energy program as aggressively as possible. But Trump has been hostile to green energy, loudly promoting fossil fuels instead and weakening fuel efficiency standards.