Former President Donald Trump keeps using wildly inaccurate figures to minimize the threat of climate change.
Trump, now a presidential candidate, has argued in speeches and interviews that the risk of nuclear war is a much more important issue than climate change. He is entitled to his opinion. But he has repeatedly defended that opinion by citing imaginary statistics on the extent to which sea levels are expected to rise in the future.
In a Fox interview this month, Trump echoed a claim he made in his campaign launch speech in November. He said on Fox: “When I listen to people talk about global warming, that the ocean will rise, in the next 300 years, by 1/8th of an inch – and they talk about, ‘This is our problem.’ Our big problem is nuclear warming, but nobody even talks about it. The environmentalists talk about all this nonsense.”
In a podcast interview that aired last week, Trump used a figure even smaller than 1/8th of an inch over 300 years: “When I see these people talking about global warming, where the ocean will rise by 1/100th of an inch over the next 350 years…”
Facts First: Trump’s claims about sea levels are not remotely close to accurate. As the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has noted, the global sea level is currently rising at about 1/8th of an inch per year. In other words, the sea level rise Trump claimed people say will happen over 300 years is actually happening annually. NOAA says that, along the United States coastline in particular, sea level rise is expected to average a total of 10 to 12 inches between 2020 and 2050 alone.
That means NOAA expects an average increase in the US sea level that is 80 to 96 times bigger, over just 30 years, than the “1/8th of an inch” increase Trump suggested has been projected over 300 years. And NOAA’s estimate for US sea level rise over those 30 years is 1,000 to 1,200 times bigger than the “1/100th of an inch” figure Trump cited on the podcast last week for the next 350 years.
Gary Griggs, a University of California, Santa Cruz professor of earth and planetary sciences who studies sea level rise, said in an email on Friday that Trump’s claims “can only be described as totally out of touch with reality…simply untrue.” He said Trump “has no idea what he is talking about.”
Mar-a-Lago is expected to face a much bigger sea level increase
Sea levels rise by different amounts in different locations. For the US, sea levels are expected to rise particularly fast for the east coast and Gulf of Mexico coast – and Florida, which is bordered by both coasts, is expected to be affected more severely than many other coastal states. Trump’s claims about sea levels are highly inaccurate for his own home in Florida, the Mar-a-Lago resort on the Atlantic.
Even in an optimistic scenario where global warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius, the sea level near Mar-a-Lago is expected to rise nearly 3 feet by 2150 relative to 1995-2014 levels, according to a NASA projection tool that incorporates the latest climate science. That’s a projected increase of more than 3,500 times Trump’s “1/100th of an inch” figure, and in about half the time period – roughly 150 years versus Trump’s 300 years.
Sea levels could rise much faster with more warming. Under a scenario with high emissions and a rapid collapse of ice sheets, NOAA says the contiguous US could see a sea level increase of 7.2 feet over 2000 levels by 2100 and an increase of 13 feet over 2000 levels by 2150.
Trump has for years dishonestly dismissed the existence and impact of climate change. In a speech at a conservative conference last year, after saying that “the oceans may rise, over the next 300 years, 1/100th of an inch,” he joked, “Giving you slightly more seafront property.”
In reality, rising sea levels are expected to have devastating consequences not only for many seafront properties but for areas further inland – rendering some communities uninhabitable and others more dangerous, increasing the frequency and reach of flooding, making hurricanes more destructive, and damaging infrastructure and ecosystems.