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Friday, December 29, 2017

Another Trump faux pas

The US President's latest tweet suggests that he is trying to reach new depths of absurdity before the year is out. The Guardian reports, that as severe cold and record amounts of snow swept across the US east coast, Trump wrote on Twitter that the country “could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against”.

As the paper points out, Trump's tweet reflects two of his favourite tropes: the conflation of weather with climate to pour scepticism on global warming, and the supposed cost to the US taxpayer of the Paris climate accord from which he confirmed the US would withdraw in June this year:

Both are well-worn themes of the president’s online repertoire. As far back as 2012 he tweeted: “It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming.”

But climate scientists have long warned against using individual weather events to ponder the existence or otherwise of global warming because weather refers to the atmospheric conditions during a short period while climate relates to longer term weather patterns.

Matthew England, a climate scientist from the University of New South Wales, labelled Trump’s comment “an ignorant misconception of the way the Earth’s climate works”.

“Nobody ever said winter would go away under global warming, but winter has become much milder and the record cold days are being far outnumbered by record warm days and heat extremes,” he said. “Climate change is not overturned by a few unusually cold days in the US.”

Or, as David Karoly, a climate scientist from the University of Melbourne said: “It’s winter in the US. Cold temperatures are common in winter”.

However, Karoly said climate modelling showed cold snaps like the one being felt on the east coast of the US were actually becoming less common as a result of global warming.

This sort of confusion was common amongst some politicians ten or eleven years ago, but there is less excuse for it nowadays with climate change threatening environmental, economic, ecological and human disaster. The so-called leader of the free world should be leading efforts to tackle it, not retreating into his over-sensitive shell.
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