In his interview with Lesley Stahl on Sunday night, President Trump said that climate scientists who find that human activities are driving climate change have a “very big political agenda.”
The American Meteorological Society (AMS), the leading scientific society for meteorology and related disciplines, pushed back forcefully on that assertion.
In a letter to Trump published Tuesday, the AMS called Trump’s claim “misleading and very damaging.”
The letter, signed by AMS Executive Director Keith Seitter, stressed that the scientific community is an open one and rejected the notion that politics influences its conclusions.
“The scientific community welcomes all who commit to the pursuit of understanding through science irrespective of their political views, religious beliefs, and ethical values,” the letter said. “As an institution, the American Meteorological Society takes no political positions and we proudly count among our members both individuals who strongly support you and those who routinely disagree."
The AMS position on climate change, adopted in 2012, is that “the dominant cause of the rapid change in climate of the past half century is human-induced increases in the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases.”
The letter took issue not only with Trump’s statement about the motivations of climate scientists but also with his reluctance to accept their conclusions.
Trump began the interview with Stahl conceding that “something’s changing” with the climate but that it would “change back.” He would not say humans are the cause of climate change. “I don’t know that it’s man-made,” he said.
When Stahl pressed Trump on the question of the human role in climate change, referring to the “huge chunks of ice just falling into the ocean” in Greenland, Trump doubled down: “And you don’t know whether or not that would have happened with or without man. You don’t know. "
In its letter, the AMS countered that multiple lines of evidence indicate that such changes are primarily caused by human activity. “Each of these lines of evidence has undergone rigorous testing and has overcome all credible challenges,” the letter said. “They reinforce one another and there are no contradictory lines of evidence that withstand scientific scrutiny.”
This is not the first time the AMS has written to Trump, challenging a public statement on climate change, urging him to carefully review the science and offering to assist.
In January, when Trump alleged that climate scientists were waffling about whether the climate was warming or cooling, the AMS wrote in a letter that such claims “are not consistent with scientific observations around the globe nor with scientific conclusions” (which show an unambiguous warming trend).
“The American Meteorological Society stands ready to provide assistance in connecting Executive Branch staff with that knowledge and expertise to ensure that you and your staff are working with credible and scientifically validated information as you navigate the many difficult policy areas impacted by the Earth’s changing climate,” the letter concluded.