Donald Trump’s “Winter White House” lies at the domestic forefront of the U.S. battle against climate change. But in the years to come, how will climate change affect the president’s ability to host at his luxury resort?
Sea levels in Miami are rising at 10 times the global average and threaten to cause upwards of $3.5 trillion of damage by 2070, according to The Financial Times. These sea-level rises are being measured only 65 miles south along the Florida coast from Trump’s isolated peninsula resort.
The irony of the situation will be lost on few observers. After all, this is a president who has previously called climate change a hoax designed by the Chinese for economic reasons and contested the recent favouring of the term climate change as opposed to global warming.
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
Another freezing day in the Spring – what is going on with "global warming"? Good move changing the name to "climate change" – sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2013
More recently, Trump nominated a “climate change sceptic” to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That department, which is responsible for the U.S. response to climate change and other environmental concerns, will lose close to a third of its budget if Donald Trump’s proposed budget is accepted.
Of course, there is also the Paris Agreement on climate change that Trump has previously pledged to withdraw the U.S. from. More recently, Trump appears to have softened his stance on this, being quoted as having “an open mind” about it, amid international protests. This may also reflect Trump’s previous stance in favour of combatting climate change, seen as recently as 2009.
As for the attention on his Florida resort, Trump has made no secret of his desire to use Mar-a-Lago as an alternative to the White House. But five visits in a little over two months since his inauguration has drawn considerable criticism.
Among the more vocal critics to these regular visits are the local authorities. Palm Beach and other authorities are said to be millions of dollars out-of-pocket as Trump appears to not be visiting but governing from his 20-acre resort, according to Time Magazine. The local authorities in Palm Beach clearly want to be prioritising this spending elsewhere, such as reducing the $40 million deficit, battling the heroin epidemic or investing in the costly measures to counter the effects of climate change.
With Donald Trump bringing international attention to the Florida coastline, let’s look at the reality for locals as they bear the brunt of the effects of climate change.
“I just deal with the reality that sea levels are rising,” Palm Beach town manager, Thomas Bradford, told Bloomberg. A similar attitude prevails among many local Florida residents who no longer feel the need to question whether or not climate change is real.
This has led to huge infrastructure projects being undertaken to try to keep the effects of climate change to a minimum. Palm Beach is spending $120 million as part of a 20-year infrastructure project. The project involves 12 pumping stations that will push almost one million gallons of water a minute out of the town and up to the Intercoastal Waterway.
Meanwhile, the Miami Beach mayor has pledged to spend $400 million raising the levels of the streets and improving pump systems to help remove water from the city. Yet the architect of the solution, Bruce Mowry, admits this “unprecedented plan” isn’t entirely watertight as he’s “as clueless about the future as anyone else.” Still, he “refuses to let Miami Beach sink.”
These towns, cities, and resorts lie in areas that are man-made, at least in part. As Jessica Weiss points out, a century ago Miami Beach was “an overgrown, bug-infested swath of mangroves and swampland.” Those natural buffers against coastal erosion and the encroachment of flood waters inland were destroyed to make way for “white sands and sunbathers,” providing a coastline where property prices often reach into the millions yet may well not see the end of this century above water.
So, how long may Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago last if the sea levels continue their upward trajectory?
Well, it is unlikely that his presidential trips will be impacted immediately by climate change. Latest projections show that Trump’s property could well be under “at least a foot of water for 210 days a year” within 30 years, according to the Guardian. That will exceed his presidency by at least 22 years.
Yet the actions the president takes during his time in office may well prove to have a significant impact on the future of climate change, and so the future of this fragile coastline. The locals, at least, appear to be preparing for the worst.
In the short-term, Trump’s presidential visits may be more immediately impacted by political criticism rather than climate change.
[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]