It seems inevitable now that every big cold spell and snowfall in the United States will be followed by a tweet from Donald Trump to mock global climate change. He did it again this week as huge amounts of snow buried Erie, Pennsylvania, and a cold spell set records in northern states.
“Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming,” Trump tweeted. Actually, we could use a lot fewer tweets that show the United States is led by a real estate developer who thinks he’s smarter than the world’s leading scientists.
Many of those scientists probably regret that climate change was ever called “global warming.” The term is accurate enough. It expresses the reality that the average temperature of the Earth’s surface is warming. Actual measurements show it has been happening for more than a century.
This is not to say the planet is warming everywhere and all the time, however. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explains that while warming has not been uniform across the planet, the long-term temperature trend is upward. It’s the long-term patterns that distinguish climate change from short-term changes in weather.
Over the 137 years that temperatures have been recorded, the surface of the Earth has warmed nearly 1.7 Fahrenheit. While that does not seem like much compared to the temperature shifts we see in the weather every day, the increase is more accurately compared to the effect that rising temperatures have on the human body. For the purposes of illustration, if the body’s normal temperature is 98.6 degrees, a 1.7 degree increase results in a temperature of more than 100 degrees, approaching a fever.
Last month, the federal scientists that have so far survived the Trump administration’s purge of science experts issued a congressionally mandated report that projected an additional increase of 2.5 degrees of warming between 2021 and 2050 and as much as 7.3 degrees more in the second half of the century. To use the human analogy again, it would be as if the fever rose to 110 degrees.
In short, climate change manifests as weird and extreme weather, like the record snowfalls and cold temperatures in parts of the U.S. right now. Those anomalies will continue.
So will Trump’s uninformed tweets. It would be one thing if he were only embarrassing himself. Unfortunately, it’s one more way that he is embarrassing the United States in the eyes of the world.