Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Trump’s Faith in Denial

By Phil Plait

First, off, I know: Dissecting anything Donald Trump says is like digging a hole in water. If you debunk one sentence, another one comes to fill in the hole. It’s pretty clear that he’ll say anything—and I do mean anything (warning: clicking that will make your brain barf)—as long as it’s red meat to his audience.*

Still, he’s the GOP front-runner, and that means he has to deny climate science. That’s as de rigueur for the party as Muslim bashing these days, so it’s not even a question that he’ll do that.

Whereas more skilled—but still dead wrong—politicians like Ted Cruz and Lamar Smith are familiar with the science (the better to deny it), Trump’s handle on it appears to be covered in butter. He just seems to be against climate science for some reason. Those reasons are unclear.

He recently did an interview with the Washington Post’s editorial board and was asked about climate change. This disaster ensued:

HIATT: Last one: You think climate change is a real thing? Is there human-caused climate change?
TRUMP: I think there’s a change in weather. I am not a great believer in man-made climate change. I’m not a great believer. There is certainly a change in weather that goes—if you look, they had global cooling in the 1920s and now they have global warming, although now they don’t know if they have global warming. They call it all sorts of different things; now they’re using “extreme weather” I guess more than any other phrase. I am not—I know it hurts me with this room, and I know it’s probably a killer with this room—but I am not a believer. Perhaps there’s a minor effect, but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change.

It’s tempting, instead of picking apart this Gordian knot of nonsense, to employ Solomon’s solution and cut it in half, simply saying, “Trump is wrong about everything.”

Still, a quickie debunking of this bag of fertilizer might be handy at family gatherings:

First: Weather isn’t climate. You can’t disprove global warming because it got cold out one day. As the great Stephen Colbert put it:

Remember, weather is your mood; climate is your personality.

Second: Global warming is happening whether or not you believe in it. Science isn’t faith-based. And the fact that humans are causing it is just that: a fact.

Third: There was no cooling in the 1920s; in fact that was the start of a multidecadal warming trend that lasted until just after World War II (followed by a brief cooling trend, possibly due to increased aerosols dimming incoming sunlight together with some pretty big volcanic eruptions which did the same thing).

There was a cooling trend from 1900 to 1910 or so, which may have been natural cycling of global temperatures. That happens. But when you look at the data from 1975 to now, the trend is obvious. The natural cycles are being overwhelmed by human-induced global warming.

Fourth: No one is “using ‘extreme weather’ ” instead of global warming. That’s like calling a sore throat a virus. The latter causes the former. In fact, you could say it this way: Global warming is causing climate change, which is increasing the instances and severity of extreme weather.

Also, the idea of using the term climate change instead of global warming was a GOP strategy in the first place. When Republicans talk about scientists changing the term global warming to climate change, it makes my irony gland explode.

OK, so when it comes to climate science Trump is the wrongiest wrong of wrongness. But wait! He can be wronger! Here’s the next exchange with the Washington Post editorial board:”

STROMBERG: Don’t good businessmen hedge against risks, not ignore them?
TRUMP: Well I just think we have much bigger risks. I mean I think we have militarily tremendous risks. I think we’re in tremendous peril. I think our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons. The biggest risk to the world, to me—I know President Obama thought it was climate change—to me the biggest risk is nuclear weapons. That’s—that is climate change. That is a disaster, and we don’t even know where the nuclear weapons are right now. We don’t know who has them. We don’t know who’s trying to get them. The biggest risk for this world and this country is nuclear weapons, the power of nuclear weapons.

“Militarily tremendous risks”? I wonder if he asked, y’know, the military about that?

Because they would have told him that climate change is a serious threat to national security. So is climate change denial.

I’ll agree with Trump that nuclear weapons are a clear danger, because duh—and his point that we don’t know where they all are is arguably valid—but that risk is a potential one. Climate change is real, it’s now, and it’s more than a risk. It’s a direct threat.

We need a leader who understands this, and one who relies on the experts’ opinions instead of making one up.

Don’t forget Trump said this:

When caught out on how ridiculous a claim this was, he tried to pass this off as a joke. I’m not buying it.

We shouldn’t buy anything he—or any of the GOP candidates—is selling. 

* And just as an aside, it really bugs me when people start off a comment about him with, “Trump wants to …” No. Stop. What’s really happening is Trump says he wants to do something. Does he really want to build a wall, throw out Muslims, or whatever outrageous thing flits into his brain? We don’t know. He lies as glibly and easily as he declares bankruptcy.

Who understands anything, actually.

Read more about: