Donald Trump was on Hugh Hewitt's radio show yesterday and Hewitt asked him about climate change. Here's what he said:
You're probably feeling a little confused, so here's the transcript, so you can study the arguments in more detail:
Well, first of all, I’m not a believer in global warming. And I’m not a believer in man-made global warming. It could be warming, and it’s going to start to cool at some point. And you know, in the early, in the 1920s, people talked about global cooling. I don’t know if you know that or not. They thought the Earth was cooling. Now, it’s global warming. And actually, we’ve had times where the weather wasn’t working out, so they changed it to extreme weather, and they have all different names, you know, so that it fits the bill. But the problem we have, and if you look at our energy costs, and all of the things that we’re doing to solve a problem that I don’t think in any major fashion exists. I mean, Obama thinks it’s the number one problem of the world today. And I think it’s very low on the list. So I am not a believer, and I will, unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there’s weather. I believe there’s change, and I believe it goes up and it goes down, and it goes up again. And it changes depending on years and centuries, but I am not a believer, and we have much bigger problems.
You know, I talk about global warming. You know, to me, the worst global warming, and I mentioned this to you once before, is nuclear warming. That’s our global warming. That’s what I see, because we have incompetent people, and we have these rogue nations, and not even rogue nations anymore. You know, we had a case where Vladimir Putin about three months ago threw out the nuke word. And I never thought I’d hear that from a Russia. But he said they’d better, essentially, they’d better be careful, because you know, we are a nuclear nation. That was a hell of a statement for him to make. And that’s a statement that’s made because of a lack of respect.
Does that clear it up? No?
I briefly considered factchecking this word salad. For instance, nobody in the 1920s thought the earth was cooling. In the 1970s, a few scientists briefly speculated that the effect of aerosols in the atmosphere (blocking sunlight out) might overwhelm the longer term effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (trapping heat in). But then they did some science, discovered that was wrong, and adjusted their views accordingly.
According to climate change deniers, because a few (not even most — just a few) scientists briefly postulated an incorrect theory about the balance of atmospheric forcings some 40 years ago, all subsequent climate science is nonsense and you can't trust what those climate scientists say. They're always changing their minds!
Note that by this same logic, you can't trust what any scientist says, since all branches of science — biology, astronomy, you name it — have seen incorrect theories come and go.
"Today, the Hubble telescope discovered a new planet ..."
"Yeah, right, and in the 1970s they said Pluto was a planet!"
Anyway, despite this trope being aggressively, almost comically stupid, it has been around for decades. It is repeated by deniers to this day, with numbing frequency, which makes Trump's "I don't know if you know that or not" extra amusing.
[UPDATE/CORRECTION: Well, egg on my face! As about two dozen outraged emailers have informed me, there was some scattered concern about a new ice age in the 1920s and '30s. And the '40s and '50s. And the '60s and '70s. Basically, the notion came and went throughout the 20th century, often hyped by the press, though it never found broad scientific acceptance. It was only toward the end of the century that science clarified the strength and balance of various atmospheric forcings and came to a consensus about the direction of the overall system.
So Trump is right that "people talked about global cooling" in the 1920s, though "people" is one or two scientists and a few credulous press stories. It's still a cosmically stupid reason to reject current science — science has discovered lots of new things since the 1920s — but there you have it.]
But then I read this sentence-like string of words again:
But the problem we have, and if you look at our energy costs, and all of the things that we’re doing to solve a problem that I don’t think in any major fashion exists.
And I realized that factchecking Donald Trump is a category error. It's like polishing a duck.
So we'll just leave it there. Except I have to ask: what is going on with this "nuclear warming" business? This is not the first time Trump has said it. For instance:
They talk about global warming is our biggest threat. The global warming we have to worry about is nuclear warming. That's the global warming.
A nuclear blast would be very, very warm, very, very briefly, for those located near ground zero. After that, though, the big fear is nuclear winter, whereby soot kicked up into the atmosphere by nuclear blasts blocks out the sun. So I'm not sure what "nuclear warming" is. Or why "that's the global warming." Or why, whatever it is, it can't be solved alongside global warming, rather than in its place. Or why ...
Oh, screw it.