“It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch.”
Just as he has tried at times with the Covid-19 pandemic, President Trump’s solution to climate change seems to be to wish it away.
When presented with facts by Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and then Wade Crowfoot, secretary of California’s Natural Resources Agency, about how warming temperatures brought on by the burning of fossil fuels worsened the wildfires, President Donald Trump just shrugged it off and again doubted the consensus of every major scientific organization that studies out planet.
“I don’t think science knows, actually,” the President said at the briefing on the California wildfires that have destroyed millions of acres in recent weeks.
With climate change, it is the difference between weather and climate that continually trips him up.
He is right that yes, it will get cooler. We are heading into winter in the US – and all the global warming in the world won’t change Earth’s annual trip around the sun or its tilt, which brings about the change in seasons.
But that doesn’t mean an end to global warming.
As he has done in the past, Trump is once again conflating seasonal weather with climate – and ignoring the planet’s long-term warming trend.
Trump has repeatedly suggested that a cold day or snowstorm must mean climate change is no longer occurring.
His Twitter account is littered with “where the hell is global warming,” tweets, most likely during a winter snowstorm wherever he is located.
We do not see those tweets, however, when an area the size of Connecticut is burning in the California, the result of the hottest summer the Northern Hemisphere has ever seen and years of increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall.
“People at all levels struggle with the difference between weather and climate,” Marshall Shepherd, an atmospheric scientist and director of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Georgia, told CNN.
“One of the most common science literacy mistakes is to assume a cold day or seasonal transition somehow describes climate. That’s like saying a baseball player getting one hit is now leading the league in batting average,” Shepherd said.
There’s a difference between weather and climate
Weather is what happens today. Climate is what happens over the long run.
“Weather is the condition in the atmosphere over a short period of time. Climate is how the atmosphere behaves over relatively long periods of time,” according to a NASA explanation from 2005.
Climate skeptics have conflated the two for years, for example, pointing to cold winter weather as proof that global warming is a hoax, most likely to play on people’s confusion about the two.
“People also tend to confuse what is happening where they live as an indication of what is happening globally,” Shepherd says.
“It is not ‘Where You Live Warming,’ it is ‘Global Warming,’” Shepherd told CNN.
Scientists agree: It will get warmer
“At face value, the President’s remarks are directly at odds with our basic understanding of the causes and consequences of ongoing climate change, as supported by decades of scientific research, including research recently synthesized by 13 federal agencies,” according to Kim Cobb, a professor and researcher of paleoclimate and climate change at Georgia Tech.
Major scientific agencies such as the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the US National Climate Assessment agree in their latest reports that even if all greenhouse gas emissions came to a screeching halt, global warming would continue for decades – though the rate and severity could certainly be lessened by aggressively turning away from fossil fuels.
As for next year being cooler – unlikely.
The five hottest years in the planet’s history have been the last five – this year will almost certainly place in the top five.
The last time the planet even had a month that was cooler than average? That would be 428 months ago, in 1985.
So, no – the climate is not getting cooler anytime soon, and yes, the science knows.