On Friday morning, Donald Trump toured southeast Louisiana, a region that has been ravaged in the past week by historic rainfall and devastating floods. Late last week, slow-moving weather systems dumped more than two feet of rain over a 48-hour period, leaving more than a dozen dead and at least 40,000 homes damaged.
According to Elizabeth Crisp, a reporter for The Advocate in Baton Rogue, Trump drove through areas littered with flood debris in his motorcade, and then visited a local church where he spoke with both flood victims and disaster relief volunteers. He then signed autographs before leaving.
— Elizabeth Crisp (@elizabethcrisp) August 19, 2016
The visit comes the day after Trump gave a speech in North Carolina, of which he dedicated a significant portion to Louisiana.
“Our prayers are with the families who have lost loved ones, and we send them our deepest condolences,” the Republican presidential nominee said at the beginning of his remarks Thursday night. “Though words cannot express the sadness one feels at times like this, I hope everyone in Louisiana knows that our country is praying for them and standing with them to help them in these difficult hours.”
But Trump’s visit, coupled with his calls for sympathy for the victims of the flooding, is ironic, considering his denial of climate change, which is expected to increase the likelihood that devastating floods like the one in Louisiana will occur.
“Climate change has already been shown to increase the amounts of rain falling in the most intense events across many parts of the world, and extreme rainfall events like this week’s Louisiana storm are expected to grow increasingly common in the coming years,” Bob Henson and Jeff Masters explained over at Weather Underground. Which is to say that while climate change can’t cause a single weather event — and while floods certainly would occur in a world without climate change — global warming is making the odds of these extreme events more and more likely.
Trump, however, does not believe that climate change is a problem worth solving. He has called it a “hoax” and argued that it was concept “created by and for the Chinese.” He has called for the United States to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, which many view as the best chance for avoiding the most catastrophic effects of global climate change. Under a Trump administration, policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions would take a backseat to his promises to mine for as many fossil fuels as possible.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
If Trump truly is concerned for the people of Louisiana, supporting policies that would make devastating flooding like this more likely is a strange way of showing it. Environmental groups took notice, with the Sierra Club decrying his visit as “campaign theatrics.”
“Let’s be clear: Donald Trump is taking his reckless and dangerous denial of climate science to the heart of a crisis fueled in part by climate change,” Sierra Club Political Director Khalid Pitts said in a statement. “That’s like a tobacco lobbyist offering health tips at a cancer ward.”
Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R), asked Republicans in Congress in 2005 to cut spending before sending disaster relief funds to Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In 2012, then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney faced backlash when he visited Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Isaac; Romney and running-mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) supported a budget that would have slashed federal disaster funding.
President Obama has faced some criticism for not visiting Louisiana in the wake of last week’s floods, though Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) has asked Obama to wait a few weeks, until the initial damage is cleaned up. Edwards explained that presidential visits require a great deal of preparation and security, and he did not want to divert resources away from helping those affected by the flooding.
Trump apparently kept his own plans for a visit quiet, and did not call Edwards before planning his trip. Edwards welcomed Trump’s visit, but warned against using the visit as a photo-op, suggesting that instead Trump volunteer or donate money to the LA Flood Relief Fund. According to reporters in Louisiana, Trump’s visit included no volunteer time or announcement of financial contributions.
Trump does not have the best record when it comes to making charitable donations in the wake of storms. Earlier this summer, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) told a story about Trump donating to a disaster relief fund after Hurricane Sandy; according to the Washington Post, there is no record of that donation.