As he so often does, President Trump falsely declared on “60 Minutes” that North Korea and the United States were going to war before he stepped in to thwart it.
Interviewer Lesley Stahl was having none of it. “We were going to war?”
Trump immediately retreated to safer ground, expressing a view rather than trying to assert a fact: “I think it was going to end up in war,” he said, before moving on to his “impression” of the situation.
The 26-minute interview that aired Oct. 14 was typical Trump — bobbing and weaving through a litany of false claims, misleading assertions and exaggerated facts. Trump again demonstrated what The Fact Checker has long documented: His rhetoric is fundamentally based on making statements that are not true, and he will be as deceptive as his audience will allow.
.. Trump resorting to all of his favored moves to sidestep the truth.
.. On Stahl’s first question, about whether Trump still thinks climate change is a hoax, the president dodged by saying “something’s happening.” He then completely reversed course and declared that climate change is not a hoax and that “I’m not denying climate change.”
.. Trump also falsely said the climate will change back again, even though the National Climate Assessment approved by his White House last year said that there was no turning back. He said he did not know whether climate change was man-made, though the same report said “there is no convincing alternative” posed by the evidence.
.. Trump did his usual shrug when asked whether North Korea is building more nuclear missiles. “Well, nobody really knows. I mean, people are saying that.” Among the people who are saying that are U.S. intelligence agencies, who have concluded that North Korea does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile and is instead working to conceal its weapons and production facilities.
.. Even when he adjusts his rhetoric, at times contradicting what he has just said, Trump almost always appears to believe firmly in what he is saying.
.. On trade, the president continues to suggest that deficits mean the United States is losing money: “I told President Xi we cannot continue to have China take $500 billion a year out of the United States.”
That’s wrong. The trade deficit just means Americans are buying more Chinese products than the Chinese are buying from the United States, not that the Chinese are somehow stealing U.S. money.
.. Trump also continues to misstate the trade deficit with China. It’s not $500 billion, as he told Stahl; it was $335 billion in 2017
.. Curiously, he denied to Stahl that he ever said he was engaged in a trade war with China, even though he has said and tweeted it many times, including on Fox News last week.
.. He also falsely said that “the European Union was formed in order to take advantage of us on trade.” That’s a misreading of history, at best. The E.U. got its start shortly after World War II as the European Coal and Steel Community — an early effort to bind together bitter enemies such as Germany and France in a common economic space to promote peace.
.. Trump surfaced another old favorite knock on U.S. allies — “we shouldn’t be paying almost the entire cost of NATO to protect Europe.” Actually, the United States pays 22 percent of NATO’s common fund. Trump keeps counting U.S. defense spending devoted to patrolling the Pacific Ocean and other parts of the world as part of NATO funding.
When it was pointed out that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a former general who served in the military for 44 years, says he believes NATO had kept the peace for 70 years, Trump sniffed, “I think I know more about it than he does.”
.. Questioned about Russian interference in the 2016 election, Trump conceded that “they meddled.” But he added, “I think China meddled, too.” When Stahl said he was “diverting the whole Russia thing,” Trump insisted he was not. “I’m not doing anything,” he demurred. “I’m saying Russia, but I’m also saying China.”
There is no evidence China engaged in the same disinformation effort as Russia, which intelligence agencies have said was designed to swing the election toward Trump.
.. Finally, Trump continued his habit of mischaracterizing what his predecessor did. He claimed that Barack Obama “gave away” the Crimea region of Ukraine, when actually Russia seized it and Obama then led an effort to impose sanctions in response.
.. In one of the testier back-and-forths, Trump tried to shut down Stahl with one line that was indisputably true: “I’m president,” he said, “and you’re not.”
The growing severity and frequency of extreme-weather events suggests that climate scientists’ nightmare scenarios must be taken seriously. Fortunately, rapid advances are being made in clean-energy technology and carbon-neutral forms of living... But there is another risk: that warnings such as these will lead to despair.. political and technological developments that are currently underway offer grounds for genuine hope... the real focus was on the Exponential Climate Action Roadmap, a major new study showing that progress in the use of non-fossil-fuel technologies is advancing not just linearly, but exponentially.. solar- and wind-power usage is doubling every four years. If that continues, at least half of global electricity production could come just from these two forms of renewable energy by 2030. And there is no good reason to think that progress couldn’t accelerate further. Just in the past few years, there have been rapid advances in solar-energy technologies and energy storage... $90 trillion will be invested in new infrastructure around the world over the course of the next 15 years... humanity could have an historic opportunity to leapfrog into far more sustainable, carbon-neutral patterns of habitation... New approaches to energy, industry, architecture, city planning, transportation, agriculture, and forestry have the potential to halve GHG emissions by 2030... GHG emissions have already peaked in 49 countries that account for 40% of global emissions; and ten countries have even committed to being carbon-neutral by 2050. California and Sweden say that they will produce zero net emissions by 2045.
Exxon Mobil Corp. is committing $1 million over two years to promote a tax on carbon emissions by corporations, one of the few times an oil company has given money to make fighting climate change a political priority in Washington.
Exxon sees a carbon tax as an alternative to patchwork regulations, putting one cost on all carbon emitters nationwide, eliminating regulatory uncertainty hovering over Exxon’s business in states that might seek to target oil companies, the person said.
.. Exxon’s contribution will go to Americans for Carbon Dividends, a new group co-chaired by former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. It is promoting a carbon tax-plus-dividend policy first proposed by two former secretaries of state, James Baker III and George Shultz, last year. All three figures are Republicans.
The idea is to discourage companies from emitting carbon through the tax, but to avoid burdening consumers by returning the money to Americans through what the group calls a “carbon dividend” that it estimates could be as much as $2,000 annually per family.
On climate change issues, Exxon finds itself in unlikely opposition to many in the Republican Party, at a time the GOP holds the White House and majorities in Congress. Republican leaders there have often derided the idea of global warming and shown contempt for taxes as a solution.
While the Baker-Shultz plan is designed to be revenue-neutral by sending all of the money directly back to Americans, critics say it is too nuanced and complicated to be palatable.
.. “I don’t think the base would believe that, even if it were true,” said George David Banks, a former adviser to Mr. Trump on climate issues. “Not only are you asking the base to support climate policy, but you’re asking them to support a tax. You’re asking them to support a double whammy.”
Insurers are at the vanguard of a movement to put a value today on the unpredictable future of a warming planet
When a wildfire engulfed the Canadian oil-sands boomtown of Fort McMurray two years ago, it hit insurance company Aviva PLC out of nowhere.
The British firm had been active in Canada since 1835. Its actuaries long believed wildfire risk to homes in the area was almost nonexistent, it says. Yet flames on the town’s outskirts roared across an area larger than Delaware, forcing 100,000 people to evacuate and leaving insurers with $3 billion in damages to cover.
“That is not a type of loss we have experienced in that part of the world, ever,” says Maurice Tulloch, the Toronto-based chief executive of Aviva’s international insurance division. “The previous models wouldn’t have envisioned it.”
Aviva studied the incident and concluded the wildfire was an example of how the earth’s gradually warming temperature is changing the behavior of natural catastrophes. Aviva increased premiums in Canada as a result.
The price of homes on the U.S.’s eastern seaboard battered by fiercer storms and higher seas is lagging behind those inland. The price of farmland is rising in North America’s once-frigid reaches, partly because of bets it will become more temperate. Investors are turning fresh water into an asset, a wager in part that climate change will make it scarcer.
.. After the Canadian wildfire, Aviva’s changes to its risk models filtered into its home-insurance premiums in Canada, which increased by roughly 6% since 2016, partly because of its research into catastrophe risks.
For most insurers, rates aren’t rising—yet. A flood of capital into the industry from pension and hedge-fund investors, driven by low interest rates, has increased competition and pushed down property-catastrophe reinsurance prices in the past decade.
And property insurance and reinsurance contracts typically last one year, so an insurer can recalibrate yearly as risks change. “Global warming may be occurring. Probably is,” says Warren Buffett, chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which has a major reinsurance business. “But it hasn’t hurt the reinsurance industry. And people are pricing still as if it won’t, on a one-year basis.”
If reinsurance contracts covered 30 years, he says, “I’d be crazy not to” include the risks.
.. Insurers such as Swiss Re Group say hurricanes like Harvey and Florence, which caused widespread flooding, could represent a more common occurrence in the coming decades.
.. The insurance industry has historically changed after big disasters. Natural-catastrophe modeling took off after Hurricane Andrew struck Florida on Aug. 24, 1992, causing an estimated $15.5 billion of insured losses. Thirteen insurance companies were ordered liquidated
.. The climate has grown about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer since the late 19th century. A consensus of scientists puts blame substantially on emissions of greenhouse gases from cars, farms and factories.
.. Munich Re researchers found a significant increase in storms with hailstones larger than a penny in diameter between 1979 and 2016 in central and southern Europe, causing higher losses during that period.
.. A 2015 study from professors at Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found the warming planet is increasing the chance that a major hurricane could enter the Persian Gulf, home to hundreds of billions of dollars of petroleum equipment and assets.
Such cyclones periodically hit Oman and Yemen but have never been observed in the Persian Gulf, climate researchers say. The researchers found that, with new conditions due to warming, some cyclones could enter the Gulf in the future and could also form in the Gulf itself.
.. A 2013 study in the journal Nature projected average flood losses for the world’s 136 biggest coastal cities could rise from $6 billion a year in 2005 to $52 billion a year by 2050 due to increased population and development. When taking climate change and a sea-level rise into account, flood losses could exceed $1 trillion a year by 2050, the study concluded, unless the cities invested about $50 billion annually in adapting.
.. But Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas in August 2017, spent weeks absorbing 33 trillion gallons of water, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It dumped more than 60 inches of rain and caused tens of billions of dollars in flood damage.
.. The probability of a Texas storm dropping about 20 inches of rain was about 1% a year between 1981 and 2000, but will likely increase to 18% a year by 2100
.. Increased flood damage also presents an opportunity to insurers. As more regions become exposed to flooding, insurers expect the market for flood insurance to grow.
.. Allianz, one of the world’s largest insurers, says it sold the retail business of U.S. insurer Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. in 2015 in part because climate change is increasing the risk of losses to coastal homes in California and Florida.