Opinion | A Flood of Lies

Opinion | A Flood of Lies


This article is part of David Leonhardt’s newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it each weekday.

Between 9:00 and 10:00 yesterday morning, more than 3 inches of rain fell in Washington, D.C. As a point of comparison, only eight July days have experienced that much rainfall over the last century and a half in Washington — and that was over the course of the whole day.

Oh, and two of those eight days occurred in the past two years.

On my street, there was a small stream between parked cars and the curb. On other streets, closer to the water, the situation was far worse. “After four inches of heavy rain fell in an hour, there was mayhem: dozens of water rescues throughout the region, standstill traffic along major highways, bus route cancellations” and thousands of people without power, The Washington Post reported early yesterday. “Several people were rescued from the rooftops of their cars as they climbed out, trying to avoid the water along Canal Road.”

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Extreme rain is the new normal, as I’ve written before. Warm air can carry more water than cold air, and climate change has warmed the air. No wonder the number of extreme rainstorms has jumped by roughly one third since the early 1980s, according to one measure.

Is every one of these storms a result of climate change? Of course not. But the trend is. Days like yesterday in Washington — or floods like the ones that the Midwest, Houston, Florida and many other places have endured in recent years — are becoming the very frightening new normal.

In response, President Trump has decided to make things worse — by rolling back environmental regulations and making it easier for polluters to pollute more. He is also lying about what his administration is really doing.

Not long after the torrential rain stopped yesterday, Trump gave a speech on his environmental policy, because his political advisers told him the subject is a liability for his re-election campaign. While giving the speech, as Katie Rogers and Coral Davenport of The Times reported, he was “flanked by his two senior environmental officials — one a former lobbyist for the coal industry and the other a former oil lobbyist.”

For more on Trump’s speech

Both Kate Grumke of PBS NewsHour and Rebecca Leber of Mother Jones compare Trump’s misleading statements — on clean air, ocean pollution and more — with his actual record.

The New Republic’s Emily Atkin argues that Trump’s speech is part of Republican lawmakers’ changing rhetoric on climate change. While these politicians once denied climate change outright, they now often try subtler ways of skirting responsibility, Atkin writes: “They admit that climate change is real, and even that humans are responsible — just not humans in America.”

“The fact that Trump is making this sorry attempt to shore up his environmental credentials shows that he sees the writing on the wall,” the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate activist group, said yesterday. (Thanks to Grist’s Zoya Teirstein for pointing out the quotation.)

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