Oscar award winner Leonardo DiCaprio said Tuesday that the recent spate of hurricanes is proof that the U.S. is harming itself by not taking climate change seriously.
The facts have been presented "time and time again, year after year, for decades" and "quite simply, we are knowingly doing this to ourselves, to our entire planet, and we're risking our very future," DiCaprio said in giving the closing address at the Yale Climate Conference hosted by former Secretary of State John Kerry.
He said Florida Gov. Rick Scott banned the use of the words "climate change" from state documents, but "unfortunately no governor is powerful enough to ban climate change, and today residents of his state are rebuilding from devastation that could've been significantly less if the state government was busy working for solutions rather than banning words." He said the same is true for former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, now Trump's energy secretary, who ignored climate change to see his state suffer from intense flooding.
DiCaprio addressed the conference as the United Nations special envoy on climate change.
He said the "cost of our inaction this last couple of weeks has become even clearer" in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and possibly Maria, which is about to strike Puerto Rico. He was careful not to say climate change is causing the hurricanes but noted that the storms are becoming more frequent, intense and destructive because of global warming.
On the costs, DiCaprio went down the list of major storms, beginning with 2005's Hurricane Katrina costing $108 billion, 2012's Hurricane Sandy costing $75 billion, 2017's Hurricane Harvey "estimated to top $180 billion, and Irma no one can even project, yet."
"Yet, all of this evidence, this clear evidence, from the scientific community and the mounting evidence from the economic price tag, there is still an astounding level of willful ignorance and inaction from the people that should be doing the most to protect us and every other living thing on this planet."
DiCaprio went on to admonish President Trump's record on climate change after he said he met with the president-elect in December to deliver a plan on how to leverage the commitments made in the Paris climate change agreement to bolster U.S. economic development. Instead, Trump chose to appoint former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency to shepherd a rollback of climate and other environmental regulations.
"We watched as this White House pulled us back from the Paris climate agreement, the landmark blueprint thanks to Secretary of State Kerry for containing global emissions and slowing the increase in global temperatures," he added. "And we listened as they said that these powerful hurricanes that we're seeing with Harvey and Irma did not change the president's mind about climate change."
DiCaprio closed by saying that he believes the U.S. still has the potential to lead on the issue and that "we can only hope that the president begins to see it too before it is too late for all of us."
At the same time, he directed the audience to vote in next year's midterm elections to appoint officials who accept the science on climate change and to elect a president in 2020 that accept that global warming is a threat. Many climate scientists say that greenhouse gas emissions are driving man-made climate change.