While the majority of the United States will ring in the new year in record cold conditions, almost everywhere else in the world will head into 2018 experiencing above-average temperatures — a reminder that even when it is unusually cold in one part of the world, the larger global warming trend is still very much a reality.
Cold snaps are routinely used by those who do not accept the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change to support their baseless contention that global warming is a hoax. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), one of Congress’ most outspoken climate deniers, famously brought a snowball to the Senate floor in 2015 to prove climate change isn’t real. And this week, President Donald Trump — who has long denied the science behind climate change — used the recent cold snap to dig at the United States’ past attempts to slow global warming, tweeting that the U.S. “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.”
But cold snaps can and will happen as global warming continues to accelerate, and attempts to undercut climate action by seizing on cold spells confuses the concept of weather with the concept of climate. Weather is what is happening in the atmosphere at any given place at any given time; climate, on the other hand, is the long-term behavior of the atmosphere over a long period of time. While climate change won’t stop cold weather from happening, it will steadily change the behavior of the atmosphere to be warmer, on average, across the entire globe.
And that’s exactly what is happening right now, almost everywhere in the world except for the United States.
According to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer, which maps climate data around the world, nearly every part of the world except for the United States is currently experiencing above-average temperatures. The Arctic, which is warming faster than any other part of the world, is currently 6.1°F (3.4°C) above average. Globally, temperatures are almost a full degree Fahrenheit (0.5°C) warmer than normal.
On average, 2017 has been an unusually hot year — made even more unusual by the fact that there was no El Niño pattern this year, which usually triggers warmer weather. NASA has already announced that 2017 will likely end up as one of the warmest years on record.
On Sunday, former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci defended Trump’s tweet about the weather by claiming that the president was smart to exit from the Paris climate accord, which was signed by nearly every country in the world and hopes to hold global warming to 3.6°F (2°C). Trump signaled his intention to withdraw from the agreement in June, arguing that it was a bad deal for the United States and would have harmed the country’s economic competitiveness.
Despite Trump’s claims that the Paris agreement would have harmed American businesses, a number of both public and private investment bodies have come out in recent weeks saying that they are shifting their investment models away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, inspired at least in part by the accord.
If Trump follows through on his promise, the United States will become the first country to exit the accord on November 4, 2020 — one day after the 2020 presidential election.
“He didn’t want to just sign it and go along with the crowd,” Scaramucci said. “My prediction is, is that some time at the end of 2018, people will look back at him and say, wow, he had a lot of common sense by getting out of that climate accord.”
Seventy-percent of Americans support remaining in the Paris accord, according to a survey conducted this year by the Yale Program on Climate Communication. Trump’s most recent approval rating, by contrast, is 37 percent.