The Democrats’ criticism came as Hurricane Florence pummeled the Carolinas, swamping coastal areas with its powerful storm surge and dumping heavy rain across the region. | Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images
Democrats pounded the Trump administration on Friday for ignoring climate change, warning that failing to take action would leave the U.S. at the mercy of more extreme weather events like Hurricane Florence.
Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and Al Gore all ripped the Trump administration for gutting the efforts to curb the burning of fossil fuels and reneging on U.S. promises to work with other nations to combat climate change, even as the price tag for powerful storms grew into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
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“Every night on the television news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation, and we’ve got to connect the dots between the cause and the effect,” Gore told a climate conference in San Francisco. “Some people evidently can still deny the reality [of climate science]— it’s a little bit harder to deny the 3,000 deaths in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria last year.”
The former vice president’s comment referred to the controversy that Trump sparked on Thursday when he asserted without evidence that Democrats fabricated the conclusion that nearly 3,000 people had died because of the storm that decimated the U.S. territory last year.
The Democrats’ criticism came as Hurricane Florence pummeled the Carolinas, swamping coastal areas with its powerful storm surge and dumping heavy rain across the region. So far at least four people have died since the storm came ashore as a Category 1 hurricane early Friday morning.
Pelosi accused the administration of listening to “naysayers” who don’t want to transition the electric grid to clean energy sources. She asserted that fossil fuels are “contributing” to the ferocity of severe weather events.
“This is something that we have to look at in a big way and it’s not served by denial of the facts,” the House minority leader told reporters in Washington.
Meanwhile, Kerry called Trump’s decision last year to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement “one of the single greatest acts of irresponsibility” by an American president in history. He accused Trump of lying to the country about the costs of the Paris pact, and warned that the $265 billion combined costs from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria last year showed the country was already paying a heavy price
“That [$265 billion] is one third of the Defense Department budget. It’s more money than we put into the Energy Department, the Commerce Department, the Education Department and three or four other departments put together. That’s a burden,” former Secretary of State Kerry told the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.
“For the president to stand up in front of the American people and say it’s too much burden, we have to get out of Paris, and withdraw American leadership from an issue that is life and death is one of the single greatest acts of irresponsibility by a president of the United States anywhere, at any time,” he added.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted headlines describing four recent dire headlines about hurricanes, including one describing Hurricane Florence as “the storm of a lifetime.”
“We are running out of words to convey a truth that is staring us in the face: climate change is real,” he wrote.
Democratic former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Florence and Super Typhoon Mangkhut near the Philippines are sending a message: “Right now, we are seeing the costs of inaction play out in real time,” she said.
Florence made landfall near Wilmington, N.C., just days after a new study from scientists at Stony Brook University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concluded the storm will bring 50 percent more rainfall thanks to climate change fueled by human activity. Earlier studies have examined the impacts of climate change following storms, but the researchers say that forecasting has now evolved to the point that scientists believe they predict the impacts beforehand.
The study also concluded the storm was about 50 miles larger in diameter at landfall because of human-driven climate change.
Pelosi and other Democratic lawmakers held their press conference to highlight the ongoing struggles of Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands a year after their hurricanes. It came a day after Trump claimed that an independent study finding nearly 3,000 U.S. citizens died in Hurricane Maria was a conspiracy by Democrats to damage his presidency.
Lawmakers from both parties have said they expect Congress will have to tackle a disaster relief package following Florence, but it was too early to estimate how much money will be required and when it will be taken up.
“I think we’re going to need more money,” Pelosi said. “But we’ll have to see what the needs are.”
Although September is a peak month for the Atlantic hurricane season, other Democrats seized on the extreme weather as a sign that climate change had arrived.
“Climate change is already happening and caused by human activity,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tweeted earlier this week. “As the ocean gets warmer storms will gain more energy and get larger. No individual storm is caused by climate change, but the likelihood of more and bigger storms is absolutely caused by climate change.”