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Trump's Fox News deputy national security adviser fooled him with climate fake news

Posted on 22 May 2017 by dana1981

As Politico reported, Trump’s deputy national security adviser, KT McFarland, gave him a fake 1970s Time magazine cover warning of a coming ice age. The Photoshopped magazine cover circulated around the internet several years ago, but was debunked in 2013. Four years later, McFarland put the fake document in Trump’s hands, and he reportedly “quickly got lathered up about the media’s hypocrisy … Staff chased down the truth and intervened before Trump tweeted or talked publicly about it”.


A real Time magazine special issue cover from 2007 (left frame), and the faked version (right frame). Illustration: Time Magazine; climate denier with Photoshop

A triply wrong myth

This particular myth – that most climate scientists in the 1970s were warning of an impending ice age – is wrong on three separate levels. First and most obviously, a majority of climate science research in the 1970s anticipated global warming, not cooling.


A survey of peer-reviewed scientific papers from 1965 to 1979 by Peterson et al. (2008) shows that few papers predicted global cooling (7 in total), while significantly more papers (42 in total) predicted global warming. Illustration: John Cook,, using data from Peterson et al. (2008).

Second, there were some climate scientists whose research suggested that we could trigger an ice age – if human sulfur pollution were to quadruple. But that didn’t happen. In addition to blocking sunlight (and hence having a cooling effect), sulfur pollution causes other problems like acid rain. So various governments (including America’s) enacted Clean Air Acts to regulate that pollution (quite like the way we should be responding to carbon pollution’s dangerous impacts). Since then, human sulfur pollution has gone down, while carbon pollution has gone way up. The climate scientists weren’t wrong – the scenario they warned could have triggered an ice age didn’t happen because we took action to prevent it.

Third, although we’ve established climate scientists weren’t wrong in the 1970s, even if they had been, so what? Science advances, and we understand how the climate works today much better than we did 40 years ago, as illustrated in this funny video by Adam Levy:

1970s global cooling myth video by Adam Levy, AKA Climate Adam.

To be blunt, this is a really dumb myth, and it says a lot that about the state of America’s government that the president was suckered into believing it.

KT McFarland is one of Trump’s many unqualified staffers

McFarland, second in command to Michael Flynn before he was ousted by scandal, was a Fox News analyst before Trump hired her. In fact, Fox appears to be where she developed the connections to Trump that led to her appointment in his administration. McFarland hadn’t worked in government since the 1980s, and many observers worried that she was unqualified for this important and influential position. As Media Matters reported:

McFarland, who spouted numerous misleading and bizarre comments during her time at Fox, is so unsuited for her deputy national security adviser position that retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward, an accomplished and decorated Navy vet, refused Trump’s offer to serve as national security adviser because he didn’t want her on his team. McFarland is now slated to be ousted from the National Security Council and nominated as ambassador to Singapore; she has already been “largely sidelined” at the agency

Ironically, Fox News’ Jon Scott interviewed Politico’s Shane Goldmacher about the fake magazine cover story, and noted “The president getting some fake news every once in a while, apparently, from his own staffers.” That fake news of course came from a former Fox News analyst and concerned one of Fox News’ favorite climate myths. In fact, a 2013 study found that Fox News is a major driving force behind climate denial.

Seven Democrats on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology wrote Trump a letter expressing concern that he is frequently being fooled by this sort of fake news. The committee members suggested:

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Comments 1 to 6:

  1. Excellent, thorough analysis.The trouble is many people  like Trump in particular are too proud to admit they were wrong, or fooled. The fate of the planet hangs on the fact many people just can't re-process information rationally, and move on.

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  2. Fifty years ago, the Oval Office told the rest of America that Climate Change was a threat we needed to take seriously.  Now Fox News can drop a faux-pamphlet into the Oval Office in-box, and they are ready to pronounce it to the rest of us as the 'new truth'?  It's the same office!  We heard them the first them, did they hear them?  I'm certain the Science community did not change its mind, so what's going on?  

    Bret Stephens (he of infamy) suggested in the NY Times that the blind fear the 9/11 hijackers gave birth to grew, it enveloped Iraq and Afghanistan, and last Fall enveloped the White House.  And the 'crater' they left there doesn't know Climate Change, or Climate Science, or any Science at all.

    Stephens: "Maybe 2016 was the Flight 93 election... Maybe the pilots are dead. Maybe the passengers failed to storm the cockpit. Maybe the hijackers reached their target by landing on the White House after all."

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  3. What I find amusing is that penguins hold their wings like that when they're hot and trying to cool off!

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  4. I love the graphic illustrating denier staganation: the world is turning and the rest is just all pause-button-politics as Jevons Paradox pays the taxes.


    The people lead: Governments follow! (Can you believe Arnold Schwarzenegger said that? That's how basic this conundrum is!!)

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  5. >Digby Scorgie at 13:50 PM on 24 May, 2017 What I find amusing is that penguins hold their wings like that when they're hot and trying to cool off!<

    Not just when they're hot.  They also hold their wings like that for balance when walking and to dry off after they have come out of the ocean.  That Adélie penguin is clean and she's on snow, not a nesting spot, so it's likely she's just come out of the ocean and was climbing to the colony when she was interupted by the photographer.  (I'm just guessing it's a 'she')

    If she were trying to cool off she would also likely have her beak open and be panting like a dog.

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  6. Quidam @5

    So there's more to penguin life than I thought.  I've seen them at nesting grounds with wings open on "warm" days but I don't recollect seeing them with beaks open — that's a new one on me.

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