Donald Trump says hurricanes Harvey and Irma have not changed his mind about climate change

'We’ve had bigger storms than this,' the President says

Emily Shugerman
New York
Thursday 14 September 2017 20:53 BST
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump talk and hand out food to people impacted by Hurricane Irma
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump talk and hand out food to people impacted by Hurricane Irma (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Donald Trump has indicated that Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, the first two natural disasters of his presidency, have not changed his view on climate change.

Asked by a reporter if the record-breaking storms had shifted his thinking at all, he replied: “We’ve had bigger storms than this”.

Hours before, on the first leg of his tour through storm-ravaged Florida, Mr Trump had lamented the "tremendous power" and "devastation" of Hurricane Irma. In a video address given before the storm hit, he warned that the hurricane had "absolutely historic destructive potential".

Of Hurricane Harvey, he had claimed: “There’s probably never been anything like this.”

Questioned about climate change, however, the President changed his tune, and began discussing storms from the 1930s and 1940s.

"We did have two horrific storms, epic storms," he said. "But if you go back into the ‘30s and ‘40s, and you go back into the teens, you’ll see storms that were very similar and even bigger, okay?"

But Hurricanes Harvey and Irma did make history: Irma was the most extreme hurricane ever measured in the Atlantic. Harvey set the record for most rainfall in the continental US. Together, they marked the first time in recorded history that two Atlantic, Category 4 hurricanes hit the US in a single year.

Scientists have warned for years that climate change will produce more and more of these record-breaking storms. The increasing temperature of the Earth's oceans and atmosphere super-charges these storms, scientists say, making big hurricanes even bigger. Plus, a warmer atmosphere can hold more rain, leading to historic rainfall like that seen during Harvey.

“Unfortunately, the physicality is very clear: Hurricanes get their destructive energy from the warmth of the ocean, and the region’s water temperatures are super elevated,” Anders Levermann, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told Bloomberg.

Hurricane Irma: Drone footage captures Florida devastation

But the Trump administration has been reticent to address this fact. Scott Pruitt, director of the Environmental Protection Agency, said before Hurricane Irma that addressing climate change would be "very, very insensitive to the people in Florida".

“To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced,” he told CNN.

Mr Trump, meanwhile, has claimed climate change is a "hoax," and pulled the US out of the Paris climate agreement earlier this year. Asked if Mr Trump's position on climate change had shifted after the storms, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “I don't think that it's changed over the last several weeks."

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