ThinkProgress

Trump denies climate change — until it threatens one of his properties

Donald Trump drives a golf cart at the Women's British Open golf championship at the Turnberry golf course in Scotland on July 31, 2015. CREDIT: AP Photo/Scott Heppell

The executives who run President Donald Trump’s golf course empire fear the impacts of climate change could turn a golf course owned by the president on the west coast of Ireland into one huge water hazard.

As a remedy, the company made plans to build a wall to protect the property, known as the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel, from rising sea levels and erosion. Trump’s company filed an application with the Clare County Council in Ireland to build a seawall, but opposition to the project forced the company to withdraw the application in December 2016.

Trump, who has repeatedly rejected the science behind climate change, immediately took a mulligan, filing a slightly scaled-back application to build a wall. The Journal newspaper reported that the plan still involves “beach-destroying seawalls.” Nonetheless, the county council voted Thursday to approve construction of the wall.

The Clare County Council approved the construction of two new “protection structures” erected at the dunes in the area closest to Trump’s golf course. The construction also will include excavation of existing sand and the use of sheet piling backstops over 280 yards along the coastline.

“Building a barrier in the middle of the beach is going to change the whole way the dune system works. This should have been about trying to get the golf course to evolve to the changing dune system and not destroying what is a natural process,” Green Party leader Eamon Ryan told The Journal.

During the permitting process, Trump’s company threatened closure of the golf club if its application for a wall was rejected. Local officials worried about lost jobs if Trump shut down the resort.

Trump’s company picked a consultant to conduct an environmental analysis of the proposed wall. After doing the analysis, the consultant prepared an environmental impact statement that concluded beach erosion along the ocean side of the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel would likely accelerate as sea levels rise more quickly, Politico reported.

The environmental impact statement also cited an Irish study that says erosion will continue at a steady rate through 2050. “If the predictions of an increase in sea level rise as a result of global warming prove correct, however, it is likely that there will be a corresponding increase in coastal erosion rates,” according to the environmental report prepared by Trump’s consultant.

In 2016, BuzzFeed News mapped the properties listed in Trump’s U.S. portfolio, superimposing the high tides projected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under varying amounts of sea level rise. Among the Trump-owned properties mapped was the Trump National Doral, a luxury golf resort near Miami where the PGA holds a golf tournament each year. Even though Doral lies more than 10 miles from the current coastline, 6 feet of sea level rise “could turn golf at Doral into an amphibious activity,” BuzzFeed reported.

The mere acknowledgement of climate change in the consultant’s filings on the impacts of building a wall at the Irish resort contradicts everything Trump has said and done on the issue. Over the past 11 months, Trump’s administration has largely abandoned efforts to fight climate change. In June, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Trump, refused to say three times whether Trump still believes global warming is a hoax. Her statement came one day after Trump announced plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement.

During a visit to Brussels, Belgium, last spring, Trump reportedly expressed little knowledge about the country and the European Union. When he did have an idea about issues facing the European Union ,  those ideas seemed formed entirely on his experience building golf courses, the Belgian daily Le Soir reported at the time.

“Every time we talk about a country, he remembered the things he had done. Scotland? He said he had opened a club. Ireland? He said it took him two and a half years to get a license and that did not give him a very good image of the European Union,” a source told the newspaper. “One feels that he wants a system where everything can be realized very quickly and without formalities.”

Trumps owns 17 golf clubs around the world, 12 of which are in the United States. In February of 2014, Trump reportedly paid $20 million for the golf resort in Ireland, with the hope of one day hosting the Irish Open.

Aside from the damage to dunes caused by a protective seawalls, golf courses themselves are harmful to the environment. Golf courses are historically known for their overuse of herbicides and pesticides, a practice that can have disastrous effects on fish and other aquatic life. The average golf course uses more than 300,000 gallons of water a day, a controversial issue for courses located in dry areas. Golf course maintenance also commonly involves deforestation and clearing native species of vegetation.

As for the plans to build the wall, the Green Party’s Ryan told The Journal: “We very much understand that there are a lot of local jobs involved from the golf course, but we believe that they could be protected by working with nature rather than trying to control the natural system.”