Which Morgan should know.
By now, we’re used to this sort of thing from Trump of course, bragging about random things because that’s what he does. It’s bizarre and incorrect, but so have so many other things been, it sort of fades into the existing static.
It is an earlier exchange between the two that is more revelatory and, really, more alarming.
MORGAN: Do you believe in climate change? Do you believe it exists?TRUMP: There is a cooling, and there is a heating, and I mean, look — it used to not be climate change. It used to be global warming. Right?MORGAN: Right.TRUMP: That wasn’t working too well, because it was getting too cold all over the place. The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records, so okay, they’re at a record level. There were so many things happening, Piers. I’ll tell you what I believe in. I believe in clear air. I believe in crystal clear beautiful water. I believe in just having good cleanliness in all.
Here are the assertions Trump makes either explicitly or implicitly in that exchange.
- The world is not warming at an unusual rate.
- Climate change is now called that because “global warming” didn’t work as a term since it was “getting too cold all over the place.”
- This is evidenced by the fact that the ice caps are “setting records” in their extent.
All of those things are incorrect.
1. Scientists, of course, are nearly unanimous in their assessment that the Earth is warming at an unusual rate, a function of human activity. 2017 was the third-hottest year in recorded history, trailing two other long-past years: 2015, and 2016, which was the hottest year humans have ever recorded. The pattern is clear: Temperatures are rising.
What’s more, the increase in greenhouse gas emissions and higher temperatures have a lot of ancillary effects that tend to attract less attention. Increased ocean acidification, thawing permafrost, rising sea levels, more severe precipitation events. Temperature is only one indicator of the changing climate.
2. It’s true that there was an effort at one point to switch from saying “global warming” to “climate change.” In 2002, Republican consultant Frank Luntz wrote a memo arguing that Republicans start using the latter term.
“‘Climate change’ is less frightening than ‘global warming,’” he wrote. “While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge.”
The memo also argues that Republicans should point to any lack of consensus in the scientific community as evidence that the science isn’t settled.
As air and water temperatures increase, sea ice levels are expected to decrease for obvious reasons. Shrinking ice extents in the Arctic have meant that there’s an increasing geopolitical fight over access to the Arctic Sea.
But here’s the really remarkable thing about Trump’s rhetoric on climate change. In October 2014, Antarctic sea ice hit a record high (with records going back to 1979). The discovery attracted a lot of attention, particularly among those interested in undercutting the idea that the world was warming.
Here’s Trump at the time.
Just out - the POLAR ICE CAPS are at an all time high, the POLAR BEAR population has never been stronger. Where the hell is global warming?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2014
Or the following February.
Among the lowest temperatures EVER in much of the United States. Ice caps at record size. Changed name from GLOBAL WARMING to CLIMATE CHANGE— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2015
That tweet is three years old, but Trump’s rhetoric hasn’t changed at all. During his pre-politics days, as now, he consumed a lot of conservative media and embraced cherry-picked bits of data like the one about the Antarctic. And since throwing his hat into the ring, becoming the Republican nominee, winning the presidency and serving in that office for a year, that incorrect understanding of the world hasn’t budged at all.
Maybe he’s just talking, boosting his point of view with whatever he has at hand, like his 30-out-of-30 score on that cognitive test. One assumes that Trump knows that the Montreal Cognitive Assessment test isn’t particularly mentally challenging, yet he touts it anyway.
But does he know that sea ice is in decline in the Antarctic and that it’s been spiraling downward in the Arctic for years? Is he aware that scientists agree that the world is warming? That his tenure in politics happens to overlap the hottest time period in recorded human history?
If he does know that, why does he make obviously false claims to the contrary? Far more Americans will see articles debunking Trump’s claims than will see his interview on British television.
If he doesn’t know that — isn’t that worse?