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Politics

We Fact Checked Everything Trump Has Said About Climate and Weather Since 2021

He’s right about one thing: There is indeed a thing called weather.

Donald Trump and a hurricane.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Long before Donald Trump ever became a politician, he was a climate change denier. “I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing,” he tweeted back in 2013. “Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!”

On the 2024 campaign trail, Trump has continued to claim that cold weather is proof that the planet isn’t warming — and that if it is, the consequences won’t be that bad. If only he were correct.

Here’s our fact-check of everything Trump has said about climate and weather since he left office in 2021.

“I want absolutely immaculate clean water and I want absolutely clean air — and we had it. We had H2O, we had the best numbers ever. And we were using all forms of energy, all forms of everything. And yet, during my four years, I had the best environmental numbers ever. My top environmental people gave me that statistic just before I walked on the stage.” [June 27, 2024]

Fact check: Trump likes to claim that he is “the number one” environmentalist president, but it’s hard to conceive of any metric where that could be true.

Historically, Trump has cited as evidence a book written by a longtime Trump Organization staffer that called him “An Environmental Hero,” as well as the fact that “I did the best environmental impact statements.” But Trump’s Project 2025 roadmap for a second term details targeting the waiver that allows California to set more stringent emissions standards for new cars, reducing fuel economy requirements, and making it more difficult to keep big polluters in check.

Trump’s presidential record also speaks for itself: During his four years in office, he rolled back at least 100 environmental rules, including removing pollution controls on streams and wetlands and gutting Obama-era emissions standards. According to one estimate in the British medical journal The Lancet, Trump’s environmental policies resulted in 22,000 deaths in 2019 alone. He’s been described as the worst president for the environment in U.S. history.

During the presidential debate, Trump also referred to a “statistic” from his “top environmental people” that supposedly proved he had the “best environmental numbers ever.” He appeared to be referring to a message from his former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler that he posted to Truth Social before the debate, which claims that “CO2 emissions went down” during the Trump administration. This, in turn, appears to be an old talking point of Wheeler’s from 2019 about the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which he claimed would lead to a 34% reduction in CO2 emissions from 2005 in 2030. While that number is nearly correct, most of those reductions would have occurred anyway, without ACE. More accurate calculations for ACE can be found here.

“It’s not certainly great for your clime. Your clime. They call it ‘climate.’” [Jan. 20, 2024]

Fact check: Trump’s mumbling about “clime” at a New Hampshire rally resulted in speculation about his mental well-being — as well as a late-night bit by Stephen Colbert. While it’s unclear exactly what Trump was going on about, we can get a few things straight:

  • “Clime” is usually used as a geographic term to refer to a particular region’s climate. As in, “We left New York for the warmer climes of Florida.” The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary says its use is usually “literary or humorous.”
  • “Climate” refers to weather patterns in a given area, taken as a whole. “When scientists talk about climate, they’re often looking at averages of precipitation, temperature, humidity, sunshine, wind, and other measures of weather that occur over a long period in a particular place,” NOAA explains. (A 30-year window is pretty typical when speaking about a place’s climate.)

And just for good measure, “weather” differs from “climate” or “clime” in that it refers to short-term meteorological events in a specific place. So while the weather on a given day, week, or month can be unseasonably cold, the overall climate can still be warming.

“You know they don’t call it global warming so much now, they call it climate change because it wasn’t working … Global warming wasn’t working when it was cooling. So now they call it climate change, that takes care of everything.” [Dec. 5, 2023]

Fact check: The term “climate change” was initially popularized by Republicans. In a 2002 memo, Republican pollster Frank Luntz urged President George W. Bush to drop the phrase “global warming” in favor of “climate change” since the former sounds more “frightening” and “has catastrophic communications attached to it,” while “climate change sounds a more controllable and less emotional challenge.”

That said, scientists generally prefer the term “climate change” for pretty much exactly the reason Trump highlighted here — because it encompasses phenomena caused by the increase in CO2 in our atmosphere that don’t manifest as warming, like ocean acidification. For the record: Global warming doesn’t mean that the weather will never get cold, just that it will get less cold on average, over time. In fact, research shows that the cold parts of the globe are warming much, much faster than the rest.

“You can’t miss with climate change. Anything can happen because of climate change. ‘It’s raining like hell!’ Climate change!” [July 13, 2022]

“Most of the country has plenty of water. Rain from heaven. It comes right from heaven. Beautiful rain, you don't know what to do.” [Aug. 17, 2023]

Fact check: That’s … true, actually. “When the atmosphere warms, that means it can hold more water,” Matthew Rodell, the deputy director of Earth sciences for hydrosphere, biosphere, and geophysics at NASA, who has made an extensive study of extreme drought and deluges, told me. That means there will be both more droughts and more rainfall, even though the two phenomena might appear at a glance to contradict each other.

“On the drought side of things, when the air is warmer, more water can evaporate — can be pulled out of the land and out of the plants, into the air, and then transported away,” Rodell explained. “So you have, basically, more water being net removed from an area.” But water in the air has to return to Earth, eventually, in the form of more — and often extreme — rainfall.

Shouldn’t those two extremes effectively balance each other out? As Rodell put it to me, “Floods and droughts are both catastrophes.” During a drought, crops die and wells go dry. And while extreme rainfall might refill an aquifer, “if it’s at the point of being extreme and there’s a flood, that’s not good, either.” Think about Libya, where extended heavy rains in the summer of 2023 broke through dams and inundated towns, killing 4,300 people, displacing an estimated 44,800 more, and causing over $60 million in damage.

One last thing to mention here: While our ability to determine the precise contribution of climate change to individual extreme weather events is improving rapidly, that is, in some ways, beside the point. Rodell explained that “in terms of the frequency, and looking at all these events together and how they’ve changed over time, we’re seeing that they’re increasing in number and severity in correlation with global warming. That doesn’t mean you can say any particular event is 100% by global warming, but, I mean — statistically, it’s extremely unlikely that this is just a coincidence.”

“In my opinion, you have a thing called weather ...” [March 21, 2022]

Fact check: True!

“... It goes up, and it goes down.” [March 21, 2022]

Fact check: While it’s true that the climate has always changed, it hasn’t always changed like this. The rapid rise in both atmospheric carbon dioxide and observed average surface temperature since the Industrial Revolution can only be credited to humans, and specifically to the burning of fossil fuels, which release CO2, a heat-trapping gas. There is now near-universal scientific consensus that the warming we’re witnessing has been caused by human activity.

“The most popular climate myths are the ones that are simple and easy to say,” as John Cook, a senior research fellow at Melbourne University’s School of Psychological Sciences who’s made a specialty of combatting climate disinformation, told me. “It’s the single-cause fallacy, thinking that only one thing can cause natural causes. But you can have other things like human activity that also drive climate change,” Cook added.

Start digging into this kind of logic and it quickly falls apart. For example, Trump’s argument is that the climate has changed naturally in the past; therefore, it must be changing naturally now, as well. But, Cook told me, the same logic could also be used to argue, People have died of cancer in the past; therefore, cigarettes don’t cause cancer now.

“The oceans are gonna rise 1/100th of an inch within the next 300 years. It’s gonna kill everybody. It’s going to create more oceanfront property, that’s what it’s going to do.” [March 12, 2022]
“They said the other day, I heard somebody, that the oceans are going to rise 1/8th of an inch over the next 300 years. We have bigger problems than that. We’ll have a little more beachfront property; that’s not the worst thing in the world.” [July 9, 2022]

Fact check: For starters, Trump’s numbers are orders of magnitude off the mark. The oceans are on track to rise 3.5 feet to 7 feet along America’s coastlines by 2100 — well ahead of Trump’s schedule — according to an independent assessment conducted by federal scientific agencies. Even if global carbon emissions had peaked in 2020 (which we know they did not) and declined relatively rapidly thereafter, the oceans would still probably rise more than 3 feet worldwide by 2300 compared to their 2000 levels, researchers have found, because so much heat is already trapped in the climate system.

According to the latest scientific report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “sea level rise greater than 15 meters,” or 49 feet, by the year 2300 “cannot be ruled out” in a high-emissions scenario.

While unlikely, 49 feet of sea-level rise would be catastrophic. Large swaths of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens would be completely submerged, with waves lapping at the walls of Yankee Stadium and Citi Field. The southern half of Florida would vanish (bye-bye, Mar-a-Lago!). Countries like the Netherlands and Bangladesh would, literally, disappear from the map.

As for that supposedly new oceanfront property Trump is so excited about, scientists expect some 650,000 beachfront properties to flood due to sea level rise in the United States by 2050 — not to mention that globally, some 230 million peoplelive within 3 feet of current high-tide lines.

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Jeva Lange profile image

Jeva Lange

Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City.

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