The question Trump can't dodge in Florida

Story highlights

  • Climate change isn't just a political issue for Donald Trump, who's in denial about it, writes John Sutter
  • Trump's Florida properties are threatened by rising sea levels, Sutter says

John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN Opinion who focuses on climate change and social justice. Follow him on Snapchat, Facebook and email. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)On Thursday night, the remaining Republican presidential candidates -- led, of course, by Donald Trump -- will gather in the Miami area for yet another debate.

South Florida, whether or not it's stated, is a crucial front line for climate change. And my hope is that the candidates, particularly Trump, won't be able to keep dismissing questions about this issue.
    For Trump, it's not only rhetoric and votes that are at stake.
    It's property.
    I plugged the addresses of a few luxury hotels bearing the Trump name into a handy tool developed to visualize the rise in sea levels that's associated with global warming.
    The Trump International Beach Resort, in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, will sit on a slender island of land at 6 feet of sea-level rise, which the federal government says is possible this century.
    It looks like Trump Hollywood, meanwhile, will be submerged at that point.
    (Go to EyesOnTheRise.org/app, and you can search other locations.)
    BuzzFeed's Peter Aldhous had a similar idea and used NOAA data to make gifs out of the coming flood for the Trump-name real estate empire in South Florida.
    Tellingly, he quoted a conservative radio host who asked Trump if he believes that "sea levels are increasing dramatically."
    Miami's rising water problem
    Miami's rising water problem

      JUST WATCHED

      Miami's rising water problem

    MUST WATCH

    Miami's rising water problem 01:38
    Trump's reply: "No, no I don't."
    Super observant of him.
    I hope he gets pushed on this issue.
    Even if he doesn't, though, the location of this debate serves to highlight a troubling irony: Trump, Ted Cruz (from Houston, another city threatened by rising seas) and Marco Rubio, who is from South Florida, all have much that is personally at stake when it comes to climate change.
    They fail to recognize this, however.
    The pool at Trump Hollywood in Florida, in a 2009 photo.
    And they fail to notice that low-income people will be hurt even worse.
    "Obama's talking about all of this with the global warming and ... a lot of it's a hoax. It's a hoax," Trump said at a South Carolina rally, according to PolitiFact. "I mean, it's a money-making industry, OK? It's a hoax, a lot of it."
    It's not a hoax. More than 97% of scientists agree it's real and we're causing it by burning fossil fuels and chopping down rainforests. Failing to act will lead to coastal flooding, displaced people, poverty, death and mass extinction in the plant and animal worlds.
    It's our moral duty to create a cleaner economy.
    Yet the GOP presidential contenders continue to either deny the existence of human-made climate change or fail to propose the needed solutions.
    To beat this thing, we need to get off of fossil fuels sometime around 2050.
    None of the presidential candidates, including the Democrats, has a plan that's bold enough to do what the science tells us must be done if we're not going to imperil future generations.
    But the Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, boldly acknowledge the reality of climate change, they admit we're causing it, and they have plans to start cutting back on pollution.
    This is a crucial difference between the parties that must be recognized.
    I hope this becomes apparent in Florida on Thursday. Already, the city of Miami Beach, not far from the site of the debate at the University of Miami, is spending $400 million to try to pump out floodwater. They're seeing floods on sunny days associated with higher tides. I recently met a resident there who is packing up and planning to move to higher ground because of it.
    This problem is real. It's massively important.
    And, luckily, there is still a little time to address it.
    Thursday is another chance for Trump and the GOP to prove it can change, that it can adopt a rational and informed stance on climate policy and science.
    South Florida would be the perfect place to do it.
    If not for the rest of us, then at least for the Trump hotels.