By Justin Worland
29 January 2019
(TIME) – President Trump has been a longtime opponent of taking action on climate change, as evidenced by everything from his accusation that the phenomenon is a “hoax” created by China to his decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement.
There are many reasons Trump may be against addressing climate change, but one thing is clear: he doesn’t understand the science behind it.
On Monday, the President took to Twitter to repeat a joke he frequently makes during winter weather events — this time the record-breaking, polar vortex-caused cold that’s sweeping the midwest this week — as a reason climate change cannot be real.
The problem with Trump’s analysis is that climate and weather are not the same thing.
Weather refers to the atmospheric conditions at a particular place and time. At this very moment, the weather in the midwest is freezing cold, with major snowstorms.
Climate refers to the long-term atmospheric patterns in a particular area. It may hit -20°F in the midwest this week, but over the long term, the average temperature is expected to rise, as is the frequency of days with extreme high temperatures. In fact, the National Climate Assessment, a landmark report released last year following a collaboration between more than a dozen federal agencies, shows that those trends are “higher for the Midwest than in any other region of the United States.”
Moreover, global warming is a worldwide phenomenon that refers to the spike in the Earth’s average surface temperature. That rise in temperature won’t necessarily be felt uniformly across the globe.
These distinctions help explain why many scientists and scientific organizations like NASA refer to “climate change” rather than “global warming.” The globe is certainly warming, but the phrase doesn’t fully reflect the changes caused by higher temperatures, which can result in more extreme weather events of many varieties during all seasons. [more]
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