President Trump's Tweet About Global Warming Suggests He Disagrees With Most Americans

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President Donald Trump talks with journalists after signing tax reform legislation into law in the Oval Office December 22, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Getty

President Donald Trump used the bitter cold temperatures in the Eastern parts of the U.S. this week to dismiss that climate change is happening—tweeting on Thursday that the country could “use a little bit of that good old Global Warming.” But do Americans agree?

As recently as October, seven in 10 Americans think global warming is happening, according to a report from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. Over six in 10 say they are "somewhat worried" about global warming, and one in five are "very worried." More than half of Americans (54 percent) think that global warming is caused mostly by human activities. The report also noted that 47 percent of Americans are “extremely” or “very” sure global warming is happening—which is 10 percent more than in a March 2015 survey.

Around 64 percent of Americans think global warming is affecting weather in the U.S. itself—which underscores that most Americans see how climate affects their own country. More than half thought that extreme weather, such as heat waves in California and Arizona, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and wildfires in the western U.S., were worse because of global warming.

GettyImages-897871520 A tree toppled by Hurricane Maria rests over damaged graves in the Villa Palmeras cemetery on December 23, 2017 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Barely three months after Hurricane Maria made landfall, approximately one-third of the devastated island is still without electricity. Getty

“One major story is that in the past six months, Americans have become more convinced that climate change is a real threat and that it is making specific events in the U.S.—extreme events—worse,” Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale program, told Newsweek.

Trump’s reasoning for his doubts on climate change don’t align with a majority of climate scientists or note the differences on climate versus weather. Weather, like the bitter cold temperatures this week, are short-term conditions while climate is all the various factors of weather averaged over a long period of time.

Overall, global temperatures have been increasing steadily, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001, according to NASA. The White House did not immediately respond to a request from Newsweek for comment about Trump's latest remarks on global warming.   

GlobalTemp This graph illustrates the change in global surface temperature relative to 1951-1980 average temperatures. Sixteen of the 17 warmest years in the 136-year record all have occurred since 2001, with the exception of 1998. NASA/GISS

The report also revealed some harrowing numbers about how Americans conceptualize climate change. Despite consensus among scientists, only around 15 percent of Americans understand that nearly all climate scientists are convinced that human-caused global warming is happening.

“It’s a very important and consequential belief because it serves in part as a gateway belief,” Leiserowitz said. People tend to rely on those who they believe are trusted sources, but, Leiserowitz said, scientists are well-trusted by the public. “Their perception is that most scientists are still arguing about whether climate change is real or even human-caused,” even though 97 percent of climate scientists are convinced that human-caused climate change is happening.

RTX38LKB President Donald Trump refers to amounts of temperature change as he announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, June 1, 2017. Reuters

He said that the “misperception is not a coincidence,” but rather a communications strategy mostly by the fossil fuel industry. He likened it to the similarities of the tobacco industry—which used public doubt about health hazards of smoking to convince people to continue to buy their product.

More than half feel “disgusted” or “helpless” about global warming, but 67 percent feel “interested.” Most Americans (62 percent) “rarely” or “never” discuss global warming with family and friends. Those who discuss it “often” or “occasionally” has increased from 26 to 38 percent between March 2015 and October 2017.

While most Americans may not discuss climate regularly, the President has spoken up about the issue. In November 2012, he tweeted that the “concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make the U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Nearly three years later, he used nearly identical language to Thursday’s tweet, saying: “It’s really cold outside, they are calling it a major freeze, weeks ahead of normal. Man, we could use a big fat dose of global warming!”