Yesterday, Trump tweeted:
“In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we 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. Bundle up!”
Oh god, here we go again. Trump is regurgitating climate denialist drivel. It is predictable, toxic, and diabolically effective in bolstering anti-science rhetoric in our culture.
Folks. Weather is not climate. Weather and climate operate on fundamentally difference scales of time and space. Weather is ephemeral, local, and episodic. Climate is planetary, comprehensive, and predictable.
Let me break this down. There are four fundamental components of the earth system that contribute to climatic changes: Milankvitch cycles (wobbles in Earth’s orbit), the carbon cycle (which is fundamentally about ocean circulation, because the ocean dominates the carbon system of the planet), tectonics (including volcanism, the weathering of mountains, and the movement of continental plates), and solar variability (because the sun itself varies in the amount of solar energy produced). Oh, also, you know what else changes Earth’s climate? Asteroid impact events.
Did you read about weather anywhere in this list? No. Of course not. Is it dumb to point to cold weather events as if they debunk climate science? Phenomenally dumb.
Again, global warming is a term used to describe a prediction: that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere (sourced from human activity) will change the global heat budget of the planet. WHY? Because covalent bonds in CO2 molecules absorb Infrared Energy (aka HEAT). More CO2, more heat captured, more atmospheric warming. And guess what? Those predictions come true year after year after year.
Here is the real scary part: the present release rate of carbon in the atmosphere is unprecedented when compared to the last 66 million years of Earth history. What does this mean? We are warming the planet, and changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere and ocean, faster than any geological processes in the last 66 million years. Think about this: we are changing the planet at a physical, biological, and chemical scale that is on par with the global consequences of an asteroid impact event.
When we have the President of the United State tweeting about conflating weather and climate (“good old Global Warming”), it demonstrates the inherent danger in public scientific equivocation about weather attribution. Weathermen. Take note and do your job: forecast the weather. Leave climate change to Earth scientists. This isn’t about the weather – this is about fundamentally changing the geologic and evolutionary trajectory of this one finite planet forever.