Trump officials struggle to explain his climate denial in the wake of Harvey and Irma

The administration's approach is a bit like treating an infection by putting on a shirt that covers it up.

Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert pauses as he speaks during a news briefing at the White House. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert pauses as he speaks during a news briefing at the White House. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

This year is the first in U.S. history in which two Atlantic Category 4 hurricanes hit the country. As the latest of those storms — Hurricane Irma — neared Florida over the weekend, it was one of three swirling in the Atlantic Ocean basin at the same time.

These unusual and dangerous events will become more frequent as the climate continues to change, and yet it’s unclear whether President Trump even accepts climate science. Around the time he ordered the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement on June 1, his press aides repeatedly dodged questions about the president’s stance on the issue, responding by saying they hadn’t had the chance to talk to him about it. On more than 100 occasions, Trump has publicly expressed skepticism about climate change.

But in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Trump administration indicated it may be having some second thoughts about its climate denialism. According to the Washington Post, the devastation Harvey caused in flood-prone areas of Houston prompted the administration to reconsider rescinding an Obama-era rule it had just scrapped meant “to reduce the risks posed by flooding” by establishing “established new construction standards for roads, housing and other infrastructure projects that receive federal dollars.”

The topic came up at a White House news briefing on Monday. During a question-and-answer sessions with Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert, CNN’s Jim Acosta pointed out that “the previous administration saw a connection between climate change and homeland security,” and asked whether the Trump administration sees that same link.


Bossert replied by saying that while “the causality is something outside my ability to analyze right now,” the administration does “continue to take seriously” climate change — at least to a point.

“I will tell you that we continue to take seriously the climate change — not the cause of it, but the things that we observe,” he said.

Bossert went on to claim that Trump is “committed” to “making sure that federal dollars aren’t used to rebuild things that will be in harm’s way later” — completely ignoring the fact that Trump’s actions last month showed he was committed to the exact opposite.

Later, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked whether the multiple recent “one in 500-year” storms have prompted Trump to reconsider pulling out of the Paris accord. Sanders responded by suggesting that now wasn’t the time to talk about climate change because the administration “is focused on the recovery and relief efforts.”


NBC’s Hallie Jackson followed up by asking Sanders to clarify if Trump “believes human activity contributes to climate change.” Sanders indicated Trump still doesn’t accept climate science, saying Trump’s opinion hasn’t “changed over the last several weeks.”

“He’s addressed his opinion on that several times,” she added.

Trump recently appointed a climate science denier to run NASA, and his proposed budget includes deep cuts to the agencies tasked with helping coastal states prepare for future storms.