Union of Concerned Scientists

Science 1, Gobbledygook 0: Debunking Trump’s Climate Claims

I had the opportunity on The Lead with Jake Tapper (CNN) to react to recent climate statements by President Trump in an interview with Piers Morgan. Here is a quick review of the evidence refuting two common misrepresentations Trump made about the science.

Climate change vs. global warming

The president: “There is a cooling and there’s a heating. I mean, look, it used to not be climate change. It used to be global warming. Right? That wasn’t working too well because it was getting too cold all over the place.”

My response on CNN: As a scientist, we tend to use the term climate change because there’s all sorts of changes that are happening on the planet, including global average temperatures rising over the long term. And that latter part is called global warming.  It is not getting too cold. The global average temperatures for the earth is going up and that’s a fact.

Evidence: 2017 was one of the hottest years on record. @NASA and @NOAA agree that 17 of the 18 hottest years have occurred since 2001.

NOAA/NASA Annual Global Analysis for 2017

Long-term annual global average temperature increase. 17 of the 18 hottest years have occurred since 2001. Image Source: NOAA and NASA

Arctic sea ice

The president: “The ice caps were going to melt, they would have been gone by now. But now, they’re setting records.”

My response on CNN: We’re losing vast tracks of Arctic sea ice in the summer. And just because it’s winter time, doesn’t mean that you can point to sea ice in the winter and say climate change is not happening. That’s just … gobbledygook.

Evidence: The area around the North Pole is expected to have ice in the winter due to the cold temperatures during this time of year. At the same time, records are indeed being set, but not the kind President Trump is implying: January is currently on track to break the all-time record for lowest Arctic sea ice area for this time of year.

NSIDC Jan 2018 Arctic Sea Ice Extent

Arctic sea ice area was very low for the month of January in 2017 and 2018. Source: National Snow & Ice Data Center

The president of the United States has a responsibility to correctly represent scientific facts and should make full use of the vast array of scientific information and resources available to him.

As the recent letter from the American Meteorological Society to the President says: “There is a wealth of comprehensive and accurate information on climate change available to you and your staff within government agencies, as well as from experts in academic institutions and other organizations.”

He should consult them.


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