Trump’s climate views are extreme, even for deniers

Source: By Chelsea Harvey, E&E News • Posted: Thursday, September 17, 2020

Faced with one of the most dramatic symbols of global warming in the United States — wildfires engulfing the West — President Trump not only questioned the science of climate change, but suggested warming trends may actually reverse themselves.

“It’ll start getting cooler,” he said Monday in a conversation with Wade Crowfoot, head of California’s Natural Resources Agency.

When Crowfoot said the science doesn’t agree, Trump added: “Well, I don’t think science knows, actually.”

The idea that the world may naturally cool back down is something of a fringe argument these days, even among those who question mainstream climate science.

It likely stems from the idea that certain natural influences — including volcanic eruptions, changes in solar activity and shifts in the Earth’s orbit — can cause the world to swing between warm and cool periods. This was true in the ancient past. The Earth alternated between colder and warmer periods for millions of years before humans walked its surface.

Today, though, there’s no doubt that human-caused carbon emissions are the dominant influence on the planet’s climate system.

Current conditions are unlike anything the Earth has experienced in millennia. Research suggests that global temperatures are rising at their fastest pace in millions of years, thanks to the speed at which humans are pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (Climatewire, Sept. 11).

Over the last few decades, there’s been occasional talk of an impending cooling event, sometimes linked to questions about solar cycles or the cooling influence of certain types of air pollution. As recently as 2015, the suggestion of a possible “solar minimum” within the next few decades — a period of weakened solar activity — briefly reignited the idea among climate deniers that global temperatures could naturally drop.

It’s a concept that’s always been debunked by scientists.

Scientists agree that global temperatures will continue to rise as long as humans continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Any other potential natural cooling influences will be far outweighed by the relentless impact of human carbon emissions.

In recent years, climate deniers’ arguments against action on global warming have grown more diverse — and less focused on the possibility of an impending ice age.

Skeptics today often suggest that global temperature records are flawed, that climate models are unreliable and that scientists may be wrong about how quickly the Earth is warming. Others have acknowledged that the Earth is warming, but say the consequences of climate change will be less severe than scientists suggest.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, for instance, said on Fox Business Network last year that he did not see climate change as an “existential threat” (Greenwire, March 5, 2019). He also told Reuters last year that while he believed human activities have an effect on the climate, global warming was not his top priority. He said that he believed water issues were a more pressing environmental problem.

These arguments also have been repeatedly debunked by scientists. Multiple different temperature records, collected independently by research groups from all over the world, agree on the pace at which the Earth is warming. Studies suggest that climate models are largely accurate at simulating the relationship between greenhouse gases and global temperatures — and they have been for decades (Climatewire, Dec. 5, 2019).

Countless studies have warned of the dire consequences of even just a few degrees of global warming, from catastrophic sea-level rise to increasingly extreme weather events to unbearable temperatures, widespread agricultural failures and mass climate migrations.

Some conservative policymakers recently have chosen to avoid the issue, or to focus instead on attacking the potential economic repercussions of a transition to a low-carbon society. (This argument also has been debunked by studies that focus on the larger economic consequences of failing to address climate change.)

It’s a tack adopted recently by Vice President Mike Pence, who has criticized the costs of the proposed Green New Deal. Pence told CNN last year that the administration would “follow the science” on climate change — but he avoided answering questions about how serious he thought the issue was.

Trump’s recent suggestion that the Earth may cool back down is out there even among the opinions expressed by other officials in his administration.

It’s not the first time he’s raised the idea.

In 2015, Trump said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, “I’m not a believer in man-made global warming. It could be warming, and it’s going to start to cool at some point.”

In 2018, he said on “60 Minutes,” “Something’s changing, and it’ll change back again.”

Also in 2018, he told The Washington Post that “if you go back and if you look at articles, they talked about global freezing,” and he questioned whether climate change is actually caused by humans.

Trump also has posted multiple tweets suggesting that cold winter weather refutes the existence of climate change.

His most recent statement — delivered as flames devour large swaths of the western United States — is just the latest in a long line of Trump falsehoods about climate change.

It reaffirms a profound misunderstanding, or denial, of the way that greenhouse gases affect the Earth’s atmosphere — and the future the world faces if nothing is done to stop it.