We try to steer well clear of politics, but deciding policy while completely disregarding even basic science is not ok — particularly when you lead the world’s most powerful country.

Weather vs Climate

The tweet above implies that a few cold days disprove climate change — which can only seem reasonable at a very shallow glimpse and is easly disproven by the very definition of “climate”.

President Trump is confusing weather (which is essentially what you see when you’re looking out the window) with climate, which is a long-term meteorological state, the statistical average of weather taken over a meaningful period of time. Simply put, weather is what’s happening right now, whereas climate, by definition, requires a long time.

“It’s all in the long-term trends,” concurs Dr. Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

There’s also another simple error being made here — global warming has another word in it: global. Sure, it may be cold in much of America right now, but that doesn’t say much about the planet as a whole.

Scientists were quick to point out just how much ignorance the tweet reveals.

“Weather and climate are not the same thing. Weather moves heat from side to side. Global Warming is heat in vs heat out – top to bottom,” Mike Nelson, a meteorologist, said on Twitter. “Not political, just thermodynamics.”

Nelson was one of the more mellow scientists who commented on this.

Jess Phoenix, a geologist and fellow at the Royal Geographical Society, said:

“Your rejection of science will literally kill people. Doubtful any temp records will be broken.

“Extreme weather like this is EXACTLY what climate models show courtesy of increasing global temps. Stop attacking science for your myopic ignorance.”

The reply given by Phoenix shows exactly why this is a problem — if a regular Joe doesn’t understand or acknowledge basic science, while unfortunate, is not a tragedy; but for a world leader, whose decisions will affect the lives of millions of people, that’s simply not acceptable.

Trump’s statement also implies self-contradiction, which can be visualized with a simple mental exercise: let’s assume that unusually cold days disprove climate change. That would also mean that unusually hot days prove it — and there are way more unusually hot days than unusually cold days.

But if it’s really cold now, doesn’t that mean the climate is cooling?

Absolutely not. The long-term climate trends are clear: globally, temperatures are rising. Decade after decade, temperatures are hotter and hotter, and the past 8 years are all among the hottest years on record, since temperatures have been monitored globally as of 1880 (the other exceptions being 1998 and 2005).

This graph shows how short-term variations occur in the global temperature record. However, the graph still shows a long-term trend of global warming.
Climate change is defined as a change in the average conditions over periods of 30 years or more. On these time scales, global temperature continues to increase. This is shown on the graph as the red line. Over shorter time scales, however, natural variability (due to the effects of El Niño and La Niña events in the Pacific Ocean, for example, or volcanic eruptions or changes in energy from the Sun) can reduce the rate of warming or even create a temporary cooling.

Countless studies have documented climate change and its effects, with all relevant US agencies strongly agreeing with the presented evidence. There’s no reason whatsoever to believe that this is a turning point — our planet is heating up, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any cold days along the way.

In fact, climate change is making extreme weather events more likely — and that goes for both warm and cold weather events: as global air circulation is disrupted, cold air from the polar areas can be dislodged and can move to temperate areas, creating unusually cold spells.

Maybe Trump just mis-phrased

The tweet did not come out of nowhere — if anything, it confirms a position long-held by Trump, that climate change isn’t happening, that it’s a hoax.

Even recently, Trump has made numerous statements expressing his doubt about climate change, typically using blanket statements like “things are always changing” or “we don’t know what’s happening”. The more concrete truth supported by science is that the climate is changing, and the main cause for that is mankind emitting greenhouse gases.

Regardless of someone’s political affiliation, un-scientific beliefs should be taxed. At the end of the day, science is apolitical, and global warming affects us all — whether we choose to believe in it or not.

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