It’s hot in here: Confusion around global warming

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Artwork by Kendall Johnson(9).

The last week of 2017, the East coast experienced record low temperatures, and on December 28, 2017 Donald Trump tweeted:

“In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record,” Trump tweeted. “Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!”

Donald Trump’s Tweet is an example of the common misconception that weather, global warming, and climate change are all the same thing.

Looking at one region of the United States is not a sufficient method to determine determine the effects of climate change. According Kendra Pierre-Louis from The New York Times and Rob Gutro of NASA, weather is different from climate. Climate has a very large scale, and marks how the atmosphere acts over a long period of time. The glaciers melting at the end of an ice age and spring coming earlier than it used to, are examples of climate change. However, weather marks a very short amount of time. New York’s record low temperatures and Texas’ tendency  to shift between rainy and sunny days, are examples of weather.

As stated by National Geographic, global warming is a natural phenomenon that causes the global temperatures to rise and shift the climate. The global temperatures rising cause severe weather in regions spanning across the globe. Over the past few centuries, humans have sped up the process of global warming by emitting tons of carbon into the atmosphere.  

“There is a fundamental difference in scale between what weather is and what climate is,” Anthony Leiserowitz, director of Yale University’s project on climate change communication, replied to Trump. “What’s going on in one small corner of the world at a given moment does not reflect what’s going on with the planet.”

“Nobody ever said winter would go away under global warming, but winter has become much milder and the record cold days are being far outnumbered by record warm days and heat extremes,” Matthew England, a climate scientist from the University of New South Wales said. “Climate change is not overturned by a few unusually cold days in the US.”