Oct 17, 2018 - Energy & Environment

Trump touts "natural instinct" for science while doubting climate change

President Trump toured damage caused by Hurricane Michael on Oct. 15, 2018. Trump denied the storm was connected to climate change.

President Donald Trump and other officials tour damage caused by Hurricane Michael in Florida, Oct. 15. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump touted his "natural instinct" for science, while claiming that the cause of global warming is in dispute, in an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday. The transcript of this interview was released Wednesday.

Why it matters: Trump's comments come just a week after Hurricane Michael destroyed parts of the Florida Panhandle. The storm was that region's most intense hurricane on record. His statements also come in the wake of new, more urgent warnings from climate scientists about the need to reduce global warming emissions.

The details: During the interview, Trump presented his view that many climate scientists disagree with the scientific consensus on global warming.

When asked about scientists' views that climate change is nearing a point where it can't be effectively reversed, as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in a report on Oct. 8, Trump stated:

"No, no. Some say that and some say differently. I mean, you have scientists on both sides of it. My uncle was a great professor at MIT for many years. Dr. John Trump. And I didn’t talk to him about this particular subject, but I have a natural instinct for science, and I will say that you have scientists on both sides of the picture."

Trump was referring to his father's younger brother, who was a nuclear physicist at MIT.

Reality check: The existence and severity of human-caused climate change has been spelled out in reports published by the Trump administration itself.

There's virtually no disagreement in the mainstream climate science community about what is causing the pronounced global warming trend and ensuing trends in extreme weather events, ecosystem changes and other impacts since the mid-20th century.

For example, a federal report published in 2017 found that the period from 1901 to 2016 "is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization."

The report stated:

"This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence."
— U.S. Global Change Research Program Climate Science Special Report

The report also calculated how much of modern-day global warming is caused by human activities, compared to natural variability such as solar output and volcanic eruptions, coming up with a range of between 92–123% of the observed change from 1951 to 2010.

Go deeper: UN details massive changes needed to slow global warming; Key global warming target slipping out of reach, UN scientists warn

Go deeper