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President Donald Trump on Thursday dismissed a link between climate change and the two hurricanes that recently pummeled the United States.
“We’ve had bigger storms than this,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One after being asked if hurricanes Harvey and Irma made him rethink his views on climate change.
“We did have two horrific storms, epic storms. 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, OK?”
The comments represent a remarkable shift in tone for Trump, who in the lead-up to the two storms posted several tweets seeming to marvel at their historic size.
“Hurricane Irma is of epic proportion, perhaps bigger than we have ever seen,” Trump said on Twitter last week. “Hurricane looks like largest ever recorded in the Atlantic!” he said in another tweet.
Hurricane Irma is of epic proportion, perhaps bigger than we have ever seen. Be safe and get out of its way,if possible. Federal G is ready!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 8, 2017
Trump was equally reverent of Hurricane Harvey:
“Many people are now saying that this is the worst storm/hurricane they have ever seen,” he tweeted in late August. “Wow – Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood!” he added later.
In other tweets, Trump noted Harvey’s “record setting” rainfall and “unprecedented” flooding.
HISTORIC rainfall in Houston, and all over Texas. Floods are unprecedented, and more rain coming. Spirit of the people is incredible.Thanks!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2017
The two hurricanes did indeed set records – Harvey dumped a record 51.9 inches of rain in one area of Texas, while Irma set records for both size and intensity of Atlantic hurricanes. Their landfall marked the first time two storms of Category-4 strength struck the US in the same year. Together, the storms claimed more than a hundred lives and caused hundreds of billions of dollars of damage.
Trump has long expressed skepticism about climate change and has called it a Chinese hoax.
His administration has largely followed his lead: The White House has scrubbed nearly all references to climate change from its website, as have various other government agencies.
Meanwhile, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, told the Miami Herald on Monday that it was “insensitive” to discuss climate change in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
“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,” Pruitt said. “To use time and effort to address it at this point is very, very insensitive to this people in Florida.”
Environmental scientists overwhelmingly agree that climate change contributes to heightened storm surge and flooding during hurricanes, and that human-caused global warming leads to more frequent extreme-weather events.