The Fake News That Led Trump to Leave the Paris Agreement

Welcome back to Can’t Handle the Truth, our Saturday column looking at the past seven days of fake news and hoaxes that have spread thanks to the internet.

This week, Donald Trump made good on a promise he made all the way back in 2015: He officially started to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement. This is just the latest sign that the president doesn’t care about climate change; famously, he has tweeted that he believes the concept of global warming is a hoax created by “the Chinese” in order to undermine the US economy. But that wasn’t just a one-off brain fart—Trump has held a lot of wildly differing opinions about issues, but climate is one he’s been remarkably consistent about.

Over the years Trump has occasionally linked to real stories about individual climate predictions that turned out to be wrong, but his overarching faith that climate isn’t happening is based on fake news. That makes this a great week to check in on the ways bullshit shapes the conversation around climate.

Before we get started, here’s a fact: Greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans result in higher temperatures. Now that that’s out of the way, here are some untrue items about the climate, climate hawks, and the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement Would Have Cost American 2.7 Million Jobs by 2025

When Trump announced the withdrawal in the White House Rose Garden, he justified it economically by saying the deal “could cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025.” This was a talking point engineered in a study that was funded by a conservative think tank and lobbying group called the American Council for Capital Formation.

You can read the study for yourself, but it’s pretty idiotic for Trump to refer to it, since it assumes a level of aggressive government action that already wasn’t happening. The study is based on the idea that the government would crack down on businesses in the name of reducing emissions—but it doesn’t factor in adjustments businesses would make in response to new market realities. As the study itself admits, it ignores “potential benefits from avoided emissions,” and adds, “The study results are not a benefit-cost analysis of climate change.”


Watch VICE News Tonight’s breakdown of Trump’s climate speech:


The Paris Agreement Would Only Result in a Tiny Effect on Temperatures

This is rich: During his speech about not taking action on climate change, Trump said the Paris agreement isn’t doing enough to combat climate change. He’s right in a way: The steps initiated in 2015 aren’t going to do enough, according to the 2016 MIT paper Trump is referring to. But he’s being obtuse about what that study was saying.

The author of that paper, John Reilly, told the Washington Post that he “disagrees completely” with the point Trump is making. The president, importantly, does not appear to have any plan to fight climate change, while the Paris Agreement is several steps in the right direction that have to be taken no matter what. There has to be another deal down the line that deepens commitments to cutting emissions, then another, and then another. This is a feature of the deal, not a bug.

Liberals Know Nothing About Climate Change

Like many things Trump does, it’s hard for some on the right to defend Trump’s withdrawal from Paris on the merits. So instead, they’ve focused on criticizing liberals. In the dumber corners of the internet, this has resulted in a bunch of vicious parodies.

California Congresswoman Maxine Waters is unusually vociferous in her critiques of the president. Well, for whatever reason, someone created a fake Twitter account called @MaxineVVaters and used it to make it look like Waters doesn’t know how tides work (and can’t spell). On one level of course, the tweet is a joke, but it certainly resulted in a lot of credulous-sounding calls for her resignation.

Along similar lines, Dilbert creator Scott Adams—a guy with a very unclear position on the reality of climate change—found the above tweet so hilarious, he laughed “for ten minutes.” Anthony Watts of the climate change denial blog Watts Up with That wrote a whole post about a new trend among idiot libs of blaming Trump for the weather. But the original tweet is a joke. It comes from a Trump fan.

Global Warming Has Stopped

Graph via NOAA

Last month Watts Up With That heralded the triumphant return of “The Pause.” This isn’t something Trump went into, but it’s a good example of the sort of argument climate skeptics love to trot out as an excuse for doing nothing about a warming planet.

The Pause is an oldie but a goodie. Some temperature records back in 2012 appeared to indicate what looked like a plateauing of temperatures, and this information showed up seemingly everywhere for a couple years. But in 2015, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) refuted the whole idea of The Pause with a bombshell report.

That sent climate change deniers into a tizzy, and they eventually found a NOAA scientist who claimed that NOAA had violated some of its own norms in preparing that report. But since then, the world has seen three consecutive years of all-time heat records. So much for The Pause, right?

Nope. Back to Watts: He found a scientist tweeting that the global average temperature anomaly had dropped during the month of April, which gave him an excuse to run a lot of charts and numbers purporting to show that the Pause was back. Of course, a few days ago, that same scientist had a new graph showing temperatures more or less in keeping with the same grim trend they’d been on before April.

Really what this shows is that there’s no sense following this issue month-to-month like hoaxers and denialists do. Only long-term graphs like the one above tell the whole horrible story. The world is getting warmer, and that’s bad.

Follow Mike Pearl on Twitter.

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