Tonight, President Trump officially kicks off his 2020 re-election campaign with a rally in Orlando. It’s sure to be a raucous event, with not a word – or not a serious word, anyway – about the biggest challenge of our time: climate change.
Few places in America have more at stake in the climate crisis than Florida, where billions of dollars worth of real estate are perched on the edge of quickly rising seas. Orlando is high ground, more than 80 feet above sea level. It’s in no danger of drowning from rising seas anytime soon. But other parts of Florida are already in big trouble. There are not many examples of poetic justice to be found in the climate crisis, but here’s one: Trump’s prized resort, Trump National Doral, where he will hold his first fundraiser of the campaign season on Wednesday morning, is not long for this world.
Here is a map showing the current location of Trump’s property, a few miles outside of Miami:
And here is what it looks like with seven feet of sea-level rise, which is about a foot less than the high-end sea level rise projections from NOAA, the top U.S. ocean science agency, by the end of the century:
Trump, of course, thinks the climate crisis is a conspiratorial plot cooked up by environmentalists, China, impeachment-minded billionaires like Tom Steyer, and corrupt scientists just to bankrupt his fat-cat friends in the fossil fuel industry. Whenever the subject of climate change comes up, Trump doesn’t even pretend to take it seriously. A few years ago, he called it “a total, and very expensive, hoax.” More recently, he argued that climate “changes both ways,” making it sound as if the Earth’s climate were some swinger he met back in his Studio 54 days.
For Trump, accelerating the climate crisis has become almost a personal crusade. One of his first moves as president was to pull America out of the Paris Climate Accord. His administration has gutted President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, undermined science advisory boards, and advocated changing the way deaths from air pollution are calculated, which, if implemented, the EPA will use to justify further loosening of air pollution rules. In recent months, Trump installed William Happer, who is not a climate scientist, as a climate adviser on the National Security Council. Happer, who has deep links with the climate-denial crowd, recently compared the “demonization” of carbon dioxide to the treatment of Jews under Hitler.
But the Earth’s climate is not like some pollster Trump can fire if he doesn’t like the results. And rising seas will have an impact on his Doral resort long before there are sharks swimming over the 18th hole. Property values in flood-prone areas of Miami are already in decline. Who will want to buy a golf resort that is destined to be a playground for octopus and barracuda? Doonberg, Trump’s money-losing golf course in Ireland, is also threatened by rising seas. The Trump Organization actually cited “global warming and its effects” in a zoning application to build a sea wall to protect the Doonberg golf course in 2016. So when it comes to his own fortunes, he’s willing to admit the impact of climate change. But when he’s in a position to help avoid the potential displacement and suffering of millions of people, not to mention the extinction of millions of plants and animals, he perpetuates disinformation and denial.
As for Trump’s Doral property, it already is underwater in some ways. It was built in 1962, and went through a succession of owners until 2012, when Trump’s company purchased it out of bankruptcy for $150 million. The Trump organization pumped $250 million into renovation, which was completed in 2016.
But like everything Trump touches, it has been a financial disaster. In May, a consultant for Trump’s company described the 643-room resort as in “sharp decline.” In just two years, the Washington Post reported, the resort’s net operating income had fallen by 69 percent. “They are severely underperforming” other resorts in the area, tax consultant Jessica Vachiratevanurak told a Miami-Dade County official. The reason: “There is some negative connotation that is associated with the brand.”
In other words, it’s not only climate change that is sinking the resort. It’s Trump himself.
Unfortunately, that’s true for the country as well.