In 2014, Donald Trump was negotiating to buy a golf course on the Irish coast in County Clare. He promised to invest up to $50 million to “make it one of the greatest golf courses in the world”. He hoped to bring the Irish Open there. But just before the deal closed, a big storm lashed the coast and eroded up to 25 feet deep of valuable golf course coastline.
Trump bought the property, renaming it Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland. Like a good businessman, he worried about the risks to his investment. So against local rules, he began dumping tons of rocks on the shoreline to protect it from further erosion. Local authorities used an enforcement notice to stop him. His company has now applied to the county council for permission to spend $1.7 million to build a 65-foot wide limestone seawall along two miles of beach.
Trump’s application said that he would not make further investments in the local economy, unless he could address the dangers to his property. “If the predictions of an increase in sea level rise as a result of global warming prove correct, however, it is likely that there will be a corresponding increase in coastal erosion rates not just in Doughmore Bay but around much of the coastline of Ireland. In our view, it could reasonably be expected that the rate of sea level rise might become twice of that presently occurring. … As a result, we would expect the rate of dune recession to increase.”
Following the scientific consensus about how climate change will affect weather patterns during the rest of this century, the application offered this prediction: “Our advice is to assume that the recent average rate of dune recession will not alter greatly in the next few decades, perhaps as far into the future as 2050 ... but that subsequently an increase in this rate is more likely than not.”
Trump anticipated that he would need his neighbors’ support to overcome possible government objections, so his company distributed a brochure to local residents, who hope that Trump’s investments will boost their economic future. The page entitled “Need for Coastal Protection” emphasized the dangers of climate change: “Predicted sea level rise and more frequent storm events will increase the rate of erosion throughout the 21st century.”
Communities as far apart as Alaska and Florida are already suffering from the sea level rise and the storm patterns, that are predicted by virtually all the world’s climate scientists. But Trump’s worries about his Irish golf course might seem surprising, because as a politician he has consistently denied that global warming exists.
In fall 2011, he tweeted, “It snowed over 4 inches this past weekend in New York City. It is still October. So much for Global Warming.” In March 2012, he tweeted, “Global warming has been proven to be a canard repeatedly over and over again.” In November 2012, he wrote, “Global warming is based on faulty science and manipulated data.” That year he made a more precise claim: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
By January 2014, Trump had settled on the word “hoax”. That month he tweeted three times that climate change was a hoax, and visited FOX News, where he said, “This whole global warming hoax .... it’s a hoax, I think the scientists are having a lot of fun.”
This January, 4 years after, he said on “Fox and Friends” that he wasn’t serious about the Chinese part. But Trump continued to insist that climate change is a hoax. The Washington Post editorial staff asked him in March, “Don’t good businessmen hedge against risks, not ignore them?” Trump said, “I am not a great believer in man-made climate change. ... they don’t know if they have global warming.”
In the billionaire’s worldwide enterprises, Trump’s Irish Wall is small potatoes. But if you follow the money, you can find out a lot about Trump’s politics. When he considers his financial interests, Trump is a climate change believer. Trump the businessman was arguing with the Irish authorities about allowing him to make an extraordinary investment to protect his property over the course of this century, because “it could reasonably be expected that the rate of sea level rise might become twice of that presently occurring”.
All the while, Trump the politician insisted over and over to the American public that he did not believe in global warming, that the scientists cited in his Irish petition were liars and cheaters, that the whole thing was a hoax. Protecting his property and protecting his votes call for a complicated strategy.
It seems to be working. His supporters cheer for the man in the big suit, because he says in more entertaining fashion what they’ve been told by generations of Republican politicians. They somehow don’t care about the real Donald Trump, when he thinks about his money.
That’s good, because he doesn’t care enough about them and their future to say what he really believes.
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, September 27, 2016
My thanks to my brother-in-law, David Booth, for pointing out the golf course story. A few papers noted it back in the spring and then forgot it. The NY Times noted it in yesterday's editorial "Why He Should Not Be President".