The White House announced yesterday that “climate change will not be on the agenda” for the G7 summit. The president also announced the June 2020 event would be held at Trump National Doral Miami, the luxury hotel and golf resort he owns about 15 miles northwest of the city. Trump may want to avoid discussing climate change at next year’s G7 summit, but mounting impacts on Florida will make that difficult.
The venue selection raises potential ethical questions I won’t go into here. But sidelining climate change during a gathering of world leaders in the city that is arguably ground zero for climate change in the US is just the latest example of the Trump administration’s blatant denial of the gravity of the climate crisis. It also represents a profound ignorance of the worsening climate impacts Florida is already facing, and a missed opportunity to underscore for the need for world leaders to urgently address climate change at the global scale.
The Trump administration has been nothing if not consistent on climate issues. After two and a half years of systematically and thoughtlessly rolling back our progress on climate change–by initiating a withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, repealing the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, replacing the Clean Power Plan with a toothless replacement, and revoking California’s ability to set its own auto emissions standards, to name a few–it would be naive to think that President Trump would suddenly start leading on this issue.
But here’s what we really need our leader to do.
Gathered as they will be at the Doral in Florida, a real leader would be telling the world that Floridians are already coping with the changes in climate that have come along with 1°C of warming over the past century. That warming shows up in Miami Beach in the form of spending hundreds of millions of dollars to relieve the city’s residents of having to wade through ankle-deep water downtown during high tides rendered higher by sea level rise. It shows up in the form of climate gentrification in Miami as those who can afford to do so move away from flood-prone areas to higher ground inland, making properties there increasingly unaffordable for residents with lower incomes. And it shows up as millions of people scramble to prepare for or recover from rapidly intensifying hurricanes like Irma and Matthew that threaten the state.
Not far from President Trump’s opulent resort are more modest income communities like Opa-Locka, Hiahleah and Shorecrest, whose residents are struggling as their streets regularly flood during storms and even just high tides as water comes up through stormwater drains.
The leadership we need would involve noting that Florida is also facing rapid, widespread increases in extreme heat. Between now and the middle of the century, the frequency of days with a heat index—a combined measure of temperature and humidity–above 105°F is projected to increase twelve-fold in Miami-Dade County, where the resort is located. Historically, the county has experienced an average of seven days per year with these dangerously hot conditions. By midcentury, with no action to reduce emissions, there would be 88 days with a heat index above 105°F in an average year–that’s nearly three months’ worth of days when being outdoors to play golf, to work, or even to take a stroll would present serious health risks. By late century the county would experience a staggering 138 days per year with that level of heat.
A true leader–presuming he or she had a spare moment to look at Twitter–might highlight the tweets of everyday Floridians during a heat wave in the state this past June that brought the heat index close to that 105°F level:
A real leader would note that parts of the Doral resort would flood with seawater, on average, every other week by the year 2080 if we as a species fail to reduce emissions. And by 2100, essentially the entire resort and everything around it would effectively become part of the ocean. This is just as a result of high tide flooding—storms and storm surge riding on elevated sea levels could bring this type of flooding much earlier.
Another worry for the Miami-Dade area is what’s happening underground: as sea levels rise, saltwater intrusion threatens underground freshwater supplies in the Biscayne Aquifer.
But sure, Mr. President. Ignore climate change and enjoy your signature champion burgers and your well-done wagyu ribeye steaks (a $94 steak?!) while you can. Because if we take no action to reduce global emissions, in 30 years’ time, golfing at Doral in the summer would mean almost certain exposure to dangerous heat. And in 80 years’ time, there will be no golfing at all.
But make no mistake: To willfully ignore climate change as a global leader while standing in its crosshairs is to ignore the plight of everyday Floridians today and to send the message that you care not for what their children stand to inherit. At least in the case of the Trump National Doral Miami, Mr. President, that question of inheritance falls to your own children as well.
To the rest of the G7 world leaders: The world is watching. With climate change intrinsic to many of the other items on the G7 agenda–mass migration, poverty, and food security, just to name a few–it’s time for you to firmly push back on President Trump’s effort to sideline global efforts to tackle the climate crisis. Just last month, millions of young people all over the world—including in your countries—took to the streets demanding action to help safeguard their futures. They deserve leaders who put their interests above pettiness and craven self-interest. They deserve bold action now.