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Climate specialists react — or not — to Trump’s tweet on global warming

James Spanos pushed a cart of his belongings on a snow-covered street during a winter storm Sunday in Portland, Maine, expected to dump up to 18 inches of snow on the region.AP

Sunday morning began with a stern, concerned warning from President Trump to thousands of Northeasterners expected to be affected by a massive weather system:

‘‘Be careful and try staying in your house,’’ the president tweeted. ‘‘Large parts of the Country are suffering from tremendous amounts of snow and near record setting cold. Amazing how big this system is. Wouldn’t be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now!’’

It’s far from the first time a Trump tweet turned acidulous; some climate scientists refuse to humor his mockery as a real discussion point. Others are more aligned with the approach taken by Jason Furtado, an assistant professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma.


‘‘One down day on the Dow Jones doesn’t mean the economy is going to trash,’’ he said. ‘‘One cold day doesn’t suddenly mean that the general trend in global climate change is suddenly going in the opposite direction.’’

Global climate change is the result of increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by burning fossil fuels, which trap Earth’s heat. Since the Industrial Revolution, the planet’s average temperature has increased by 1 degree Celsius.

It also isn’t a localized issue, Furtado said. The planet experienced some of the warmest years on record in the past several years.

Climatologist Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, voiced concern that the general public connects with ‘‘global warming’’ merely as a breaking-news headline or in the wake of a natural disaster.

‘‘A wildfire or massive rainfall dumped in Houston makes headlines, and if you only look at headlines you won’t know about the incremental changes or the thresholds being crossed and pursued,’’ he said.

Climate change permeates everything from real estate and forest management to skiing, wildlife, and water resources.


‘‘When discussions are siloed to conversations about a tragic event or to look at something someone said on Twitter,’’ Schmidt said, ‘‘those responses aren’t doing any of that justice.’’

The science is complex, but the solutions, according to Schmidt, are far more complex.

‘‘People are regularly making decisions about things to buy, to build, to fix, ways to organize. As a person, you have multiple levers you can pull. You can amplify other people’s voices and persuade decision-makers. You can do a lot to push this forward.’’

He added, ‘‘Global warming is not a theoretical thing anymore. They should be careful. If you try and sow the wind you’ll reap the whirlwind.’’

Scientists also explained that, although some appear counterintuitive, the impacts of climate change are no longer subtle.

In the near term, global climate-change predictions include more extreme events, such as hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, wild fires, and floods. Strong winter storms are also signals indicative of, and consistent with, global climate change.

‘‘We are seeing them play out, in real time,’’ said Michael E. Mann, director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center, with unprecedented weather disasters like ‘‘the heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, and superstorms we’ve witnessed over the past several years, highlighted by the events of summer and fall 2018.’’

In November, savage wildfires devastated parts of the West Coast. Trump visited the rubble remains of Paradise, Calif., where he maintained his stance on climate change, remarking that the state’s fires were a result of forest mismanagement.


That month, several federal agencies released the 2018 National Climate Assessment Report, highlighting the ongoing and dire effects of climate change seen in the United States. It also warned how much worse they could become.

Trump dismissed the report during an interview with The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, saying he was not one of the ‘‘believers’’ and did not view climate change as a pressing matter.

‘‘As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects that you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it,’’ he said.

The Trump administration has similarly pursued a fossil-fuel-driven agenda, denied the science, and withdrawn from the Paris climate change agreement.