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  • U.S. President Donald Trump.

    U.S. President Donald Trump. | Photo: Reuters

Published 24 January 2018
While environmental records and disasters might have been swirling around the news circuit, Trump's mind was elsewhere, focused on his corpus, now a disputed enormity.

The presidential tweet scorning climate change, namely "We could do with some of that climate change here," after severe blizzards hit the U.S. East Coast, could not have been more inopportune.

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Figures published Jan. 16 by the world's three main organizations monitoring global temperatures —  NASA, NOAA and the U.K. Met Office — show 2017 to be the warmest on record for a year in which temperatures were not boosted by El Niño. If one factors in El Niño, it was still one of the top three hottest years recorded.

Looking at the graph of global temperatures from pre-industrial times on, an inexorable upward trend accelerating from 1975 is obvious, even to any naive observer. Why is it not obvious to U.S. President Donald Trump? The answer to that question might lie in electioneering, politics, constituencies, supporters — both voters and financial contributors — and a host or reasons that have nothing to do with science.

While a warming globe does not actually cause weather events, it does certainly amplify them.  Parched forests and record-breaking wildfires in Australia and California. Last year, hurricanes of surprising intensity devastating Houston and Puerto Rico — how much has Trump done for the latter?

This week, a hurricane battered Netherlands with force storms toppling shipping containers, ripping off roofs, blowing pedestrians across roads, dislodged flying roof tiles closing airport terminals, sweeping a bus off the road into a canal, stopping train services — the latter also in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany.

Filtered through the alembic of Trump's brain, where a lie is a convenient ploy, it is all transformed into a hoax, and the U.S. is pulled out of the Paris climate accord, now the sole such country in the world.

The closest epoch when average concentrations of CO2 ranged from 380 to 450 ppm — we are now above 407 ppm — was the middle Pliocene around 3.6 million years ago. The area around the North Pole was much warmer, as much as 19 degrees Celsius higher than the present.  

The surrounding land area was forested and ungulates roamed free. It is not going to happen tomorrow but over hundreds and thousands of years that is the future. What happens to the ice melt? That is the problem for coastlines and low-lying islands.

If 2017 was a non-El Niño year and still a record-breaker, the onus is on manmade causes.  What will future generations think of us if we do nothing and their habitats are washed away into the oceans?

While environmental records and disasters might have been swirling around the news circuit, Trump's mind was elsewhere, focused on his corpus, now a disputed enormity.  After his physical, he was reported to be an inch taller than his self-claimed height or that on his driver's license — a miracle or an 'incredible' coiffure?

This is a crucial issue for Trump because the extra inch reduces his BMI (body mass index), classifying him “overweight” instead of “obese.”

“Vanity of vanity; all is vanity,” said the preacher (Ecclesiastes 1:2). It's just an arbitrary classification by doctors, yet of such critical importance in the highest office in the land.

Meanwhile, ahead of Davos, now in progress, a survey of 1,000 experts from government, business and academia has reported that the risk of war in 2018 has risen sharply.

Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former professor whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media.

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