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Politics / Issues

PolitiFact Florida On Rising Sea Levels; Trump University Rating

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Illustration of downtown Tampa for a 1.5 meter or 4.9 foot flood

Is the Tampa Bay area really one of the 10 areas most threatened by sea level rise in the world?  And what's up with Trump University? To find out about these issues, WUSF's Steve Newborn talks with Josh Gillin of PolitiFact Florida.

Recently, the head of the Tampa Bay’s Sierra Club chapter warned Hillsborough County Commissioners that building more roads will only make the impact of global warming worse for the entire region.

Chapter chairman Kent Bailey wrote in a Feb. 22, 2016, letter that adding more roads and more cars will only increase carbon pollution.

He wrote, "Our community is one of the 10 most threatened by the sea level rise in the world."

There’s no doubt the oceans are rising, and Tampa Bay will feel the effects. But is the region among the most endangered in the world?

(Here's one look at how downtown Tampa would be flooded.)

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

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Flooding vs. sea level rise There are a bunch of ways to measure how climate change will affect the world’s cities. People will be displaced, economies will be ruined, or you may end up with not enough water (or too much). These are all issues Tampa Bay faces, so buckle up. When we asked Bailey how he came up with his ranking, he said he was referring to potential property losses, mostly in terms of real estate. "We can move our people. But our fixed assets are a different story," he said. He cited several sources, including a report from global-warming researchers Climate Central, and a Scientific American article that said St. Petersburg was in particular danger from sea level rise.   He also pointed to a 2008 paper from the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The study focused on the effects of climate extremes on port cities — particularly storm surge. Coastal flooding is different than sea level rise, but experts told us Bailey is using a fair benchmark for comparison. Vulnerability to storm surge and sea level rise often are conflated in discussions on climate change, they said. "They are related, but not exactly the same," said Ben Strauss, vice president for sea level and climate impacts at Climate Central. In general, sea level rise can make a big impact on flooding, and will assuredly make storm surges and flooding worse in the future. In a 2013 study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Tampa-St. Petersburg came in as the seventh-most at risk of flooding. If you’re looking for a price tag for how much Tampa Bay stands to lose, the OECD has one: In a catastrophic, once-in-100-years flood, losses to the region currently could be $49.6 billion. University of South Florida oceanography professor Gary Mitchum noted real estate losses are only part of the story. As the oceans rise permanently, the region’s tourism-based economy will suffer extensively. Many people who can afford to simply move away probably will, but low-wage workers dependent on disappearing service industry jobs will be stuck. Our ruling He cited credible research that showed the region is among the most at risk of property damage from coastal flooding. He’s conflating that research with the effects of sea level rise, but several experts told us the problems are related. It's striking that Tampa Bay is already in great danger when it comes to potential property loss, but Bailey should have been more specific. There are other ways to measure the consequences of rising oceans beyond real estate. When we consider some of these factors, other major cities could be considered worse off than Tampa Bay. The statement is accurate but needs clarification. We rate it Mostly True.

On to the political novelty of the week: Trump University.

On NBC's Meet the Press, Trump said: "They rated the course, 98 percent approval rating, high marks. Number two, we received an A from the Better Business Bureau."

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Did they really get an A rating? Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

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We went to the Better Business Bureau website and saw that as of today, the Trump Entrepreneur Institute has no rating. The website explained, "This business has no rating because BBB has information indicating it is out of business." Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told us, "When the school was operational it was rated A." We asked Hicks to document that rating and didn’t hear back. Katherine Hutt, director of communications for the Council of Better Business Bureaus, said that as a matter of policy, they don’t provide any ratings from previous years. But the organization issued a statement that "Over the years, the company’s BBB rating has fluctuated between an A+ and a D-." We don’t know when the bureau might have given Trump University a top grade, but based on the Internet Archive, the last time the Better Business Bureau gave the university any rating at all was 2010, when it give it a D-minus. That assessment showed up in plenty of news articles. Our ruling Trump University had an A at some point. The Better Business Bureau doesn't release details of its past ratings, but it did say Trump's program had ratings that ranged from A+ to D-. What we do know, from several published reports and archived Web pages, is that the university had a D in 2010. Trump’s claim is literally wrong and also ignores the university’s lower Better Business Bureau scores. We rate it False.