What’s Trump Going to Do for Me?

Sage gives some brief thoughts on the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the USA.


I find it hard to get worked up over Donald Trump. I’m not a US citizen and don’t live there. I like to visit, but I haven’t been able to go for some years and I am not likely to go anytime during Trump’s first term – which given his age may be his only term. Just about anything that Trump might do domestically will have little or no effect on me.

Even if I had been eligible, I wouldn’t have voted for him. I would almost certainly have voted for Gary Johnson (Libertarian). I’d definitely have been in the ‘Anyone but Hillary’ camp. But what can President Trump do for me?

NATO and Wars

On foreign policy, then, yes, ‘The Donald’ could clearly have an effect on the whole world. I doubt that he will be anymore belligerent than Obama. It would be hard to get involved in more wars for longer than Obama did, Nobel peace prize or not.

Trump’s criticism of NATO maybe worrisome, especially for those NATO members who share borders with Russia. On the other hand, he does have a point: NATO countries really ought to contribute their agreed shares to the alliance budget both in cash and resources. A dependency culture in defence matters is no way forward. Perhaps too, an alliance built in the and for the Cold War of the 1950s is outdated in the 2010s, even if the primary threat is considered to be the same, being Russia/USSR.

Trade and Brexit

I’d like to think that Trump’s rhetoric on trade agreements with the UK does indicate a willingness to get a trade agreement with us as soon as #Brexit becomes a reality. While there is no practical reason why there should not be an early bilateral US/UK deal, it should be remembered that Trump also talks a lot of protectionism too. It’s possible therefore that any deal proffered by the US to the United Kingdom may not be as much of a free trade deal as I would like. Still, it must be better than being ‘at the back of the queue’, as Obama threatened last year.

Big Mouth Strikes Again

I’ve never met the guy, and never will[1]. Perhaps, therefore I shouldn’t judge him on appearances, but he seems, even on the basis of his own tweets, to be vain, arrogant and self-centred, even prone to tantrums. Mind you, he’s not the only politician to be like this. I’ve met a few UK politicos that are just like that. The difference being that they are usually better at hiding it that Trump: with Trump, WYSIWYG[2]. It’s this openness that makes Trump into an ‘anti-politician’, and perhaps makes him seem more honest, especially to his supporters.

I’m not so sure. Being completely open and saying exactly what you think at the time is not just bad diplomacy – it won’t win friends and influence people – it can also break some of the bounds of common decency. His remarks to and about Megan Kelly, for example, were quite unnecessary. Trump’s style can be refreshing, but I think he goes too far in this respect. As President, he needs to put his twitter account away, and think a little more before he opens his mouth.

“It’s Going to be Great” – Hopefully

I want Trump to be active in one area. I want him to order a complete and comprehensive review of US Government funding for ‘Climate Change’ research. Assuming that the political placements and eco-activists have first been removed from the relevant Executive bodies, I suggest the following:

First, he needs to order an independent review of NASA/NOOA climate data – from the initial data collection through the ‘adjustments’ to the final published figures. This should be conducted by academic statisticians who have little or no self-interest in the area of climate change. This will ascertain, once and for all, if there is a valid dataset or datasets on which an assessment of the degree of global climate change can be made, and establish the appropriate statistical error to be attributed to those datasets[3].

Second, he should ensure that Governmental funding for climate research is not predicated on a required outcome. That is to say that funding should be awarded indifferently to whether anthropogenic climate change is presupposed or not.

Thirdly, funding for ‘climate change’ be it research, development of green energies, green subsidies need to be significantly reduced, and some of the money saved spent in doing real work in cleaning up real damaging pollutants, such as clean air, removing plastics from the oceans to name but two. There are many more things that could also be done effectively for only a proportion of current climate change expenditure.

If Donald Trump can do this, and nothing else during his term, I will, as a non-American, be happy with that.

[1] Unless you can say that I ‘met’ President Clinton once when he waved at me from his presidential motorcade. I know he was waving at me, as I was the only person on that bit of the street at the time. If this counts as ‘met’, then I suppose it’s possible I’ll one day meet President Trump. Otherwise, no I won’t.

[2] What You See is What You Get

[3] Publicly available data sets rarely, if ever, show statistical error or error bars. They should.


Climate Change and North American Drought over the Last Millennium.

I’ve been reading an interesting article from the December edition of the Journal of Climate on droughts in North America over the last 1,000 years. (Cook, B., J. Smerdon, R. Seager, and E. Cook, 2013: Pan-continental droughts in North America over the last millennium. J. Climate. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00100.1, in press.)

In summary, Cook et al use tree ring data from across the USA and other parts of North American and identify many instances of ‘pan-continental’ droughts, meaning droughts affecting several large regions of North America at the same time. The drought in North America in 2012 being an example. The tree ring record clearly identifies conditions during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) (aka Medieval Warm Period) and the authors note that pan-continental droughts were more frequent and longer-lasting (megadroughts) during that period than since the “little ice age” and afterwards.

The authors find that Pan-continental drought conditions occur on average at least 12% of the time over the last millennium, although more so during the MCA and less so in more recent times. The occurrence seems to be connected to such natural oscillations such as La Niña, Pacific Decadal Oscillation and Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation. As such oscillations will continue, it is likely that so will occasional pan-continental droughts; if the past is a guide to the future, at an average rate of about every 10 to 15 years.

The paper is not offered in support or opposition to the Anthropogenic (man-made) Global Warming hypothesis, but the authors do discuss the likelihood of increased pan-continental drought conditions in North America should the planet warm. This is by way of analogy to the MCA.

An early online release version of this paper is available for download here: https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/res/div/ocp/drought/PDFS/CookEtAl2013PanContin.pdf

This paper clearly demonstrates that one should not automatically attribute the 2012 drought in North America to any AGW effects, as some have (e.g. World Resources Institute and Climate Central) including it seems a certain POTUS , although most scientists have not actually argued this [1]. I would be interested to know if any similar work has been done on other known drought areas, such as many parts of Australia[2].

I wonder why the authors thought it necessary to mention AGW in any case. The discussion of possible increase in drought should the planet warm seems a bit speculative. Without addressing the possible cause or causes of MCA one should not assume that any global warming that might arise for any reason would have the same effect, especially if the cause was different. There might be wetter conditions instead, if humidity rose. The meat of the paper does not seem to me to require AGW at all, and it has no effect on any of their conclusions save the speculative ones which are only weakly supported by the rest of the paper. I can only conclude it was either to support their research grants (past, present or future) or to increase the chances that the media would pick it up – as indeed Nature did (£)[3].

[1] Except for Kevin Trenberth, of course, quoted in the same article.

[2] I know, Google scholar is my friend. Perhaps one day I’ll look myself!

[3] Nature 503, 350–351 (21 November 2013) doi:10.1038/503350a. For a different take on the research than mine