Cherry, 83, made the remarks to co-commentator Ron MacLean on Saturday night during the first intermission of the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, a day after Ontario’s newest forecasting groundhog Wiarton Willie signalled six more weeks of winter.
During his “Coach’s Corner” segment, Cherry, seated behind a plush groundhog toy, asked MacLean if he and his “left-wing pinko friends” could explain their fears over rising temperatures in light of the prevailing cold weather.
MacLean tried to deflect the question, but Cherry insisted, “I’m just asking you, the cuckaloos are always saying there are warming trends — we’re freezing to death.”
Several Canadians promptly took to social media to pan Cherry for his comments, including Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.
It’s not the first time that Cherry has suggested that cold weather disproves the existence of climate change.
During one Hockey Night in Canada broadcast back in 2008, Cherry reacted to a video of environmental activist David Suzuki promoting Earth Hour by calling him a “left-wing kook.”
“We’re all dying of cold and he’s talking warming trends,” Cherry said on that occasion.
Climate vs. weather
So why then do scientists worry about global warming when it’s cold out? The answer lies in the fact that weather and climate aren’t the same thing.
Weather, as the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) points out, is what you experience when you step outside, and it can change quickly from one moment to the next. For example, it might be snowing in the morning but could rain in the afternoon because of an increase in air temperature.
Climate, on the other hand, concerns weather patterns over a long period of time, measured using averages of temperature, humidity, sunshine, precipitation, fog and other factors. Climate changes more slowly, over a long period of time.
It’s a difference that appears to be lost on many. In late December, U.S. President Donald Trump used unseasonably cold temperatures in the eastern United States to suggest that fears over global warming were unwarranted.
Trump was wrong however, because as the Union of Concerned Scientists points out, “Even though the planet is getting warmer, cold weather still happens in winter or at very high elevations or high latitudes year-round.”
So the fact that it’s cold in Toronto on a given day does not mean that the planet is a whole isn’t warming up.
“It’s like saying, ‘if everyone around me is wealthy, then poverty is not a problem,'” Peter Frumhoff, chief climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told CNN.
According to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have been this century. 2016 was the hottest year on record, followed by 2017 and 2015.