The incredible amount of snow covering the mid-Atlantic states is big news — in more ways than one. The record snowfall is fodder for some anti-global-warming voices to use as “evidence” that global warming can’t be a problem. If the earth is getting warmer, why are we getting hammered by extreme winter weather?
Weather is different from Climate Change
As NASA puts it,
The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.¹
Both sides of the aisle are using the recent snowy weather to prove their stances on global warming. Non-believers are grabbing photo ops — see Fox News place Al Gore’s book, An Inconvenient Truth, in a snowbank. Those worried about global effects of climate change claim that extreme weather proves the world is out of whack. I side with the believers.
The National Wildlife Federation recently released a report entitled, Odd-ball Winter Weather: Global Warming’s Wake-Up Call for the Northern United States. They explain the weather this way:
Global warming is having a seemingly peculiar effect on winter weather in the northern United States. Winter is becoming milder and shorter on average; spring arrives 10 to 14 days earlier than it did just 20 years ago. But most snowbelt areas are still experiencing extremely heavy snowstorms. Some places are even expected to have more heavy snowfall events as storm tracks shift northward and as reduced ice cover on the Great Lakes increases lake-effect snowfalls. Even as global warming slowly changes the character of winter, we still experience significant year-to-year variability in snowfall and temperature because many different factors are at play.² (my emphasis added)
If you read my post back in the fall (What’s the Confusion about Climate Change), then you know the numbers of Americans believing in global warming were already falling. A new survey confirms this alarming trend. According to the Washington Post:
On Wednesday, Yale and George Mason universities released a survey showing that just 57 percent of people said global warming “is happening.” That was down 14 percentage points, from 71 percent, in October 2008. Fifty percent of people said they were “very” or “somewhat” worried about global warming, down 13 points from 2008.³ (You can find the survey here.)
What comes after Copenhagen?
Whether you’re digging out or watching the snowflakes on your television, there is still more work to be done. I’ve signed petitions, changed light bulbs, taken fewer car trips, and voted for politicians who favor cutting back on greenhouse gases. I still sometimes feel helpless. Now that the Climate Change Conference is over, what can we do?
Don’t despair. There are still ways for us to tread more lightly as individuals while we make it clear to others that slowing global warming is a priority:
- Help tcktcktck.org formulate a new plan for 2010. They’re the group that collected over 15 million signatures asking for a clear treaty to come from the Climate Conference. Take a short survey by February 14th to tell them what YOU want to see happen next.
- Join Al Gore’s Repower America. Let’s find cleaner sources of energy for all of us. You can find me here on the wall.
- Change those light bulbs, bring your own bag to the market and walk there when you can, but we must also think BIG: It really does help to buy local dairy, meats and produce when possible.
- Green Up your home’s electricity if you have that choice. Yes, it costs a little bit more, but it sends a clear message that we want renewable sources of energy. Ask you local electricity provider what renewable options are available.
- Host a talk for The Climate Project in your community.
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1) What’s the Difference Between Weather and Climate?, NASA. 2/1/05.
2) Odd-ball Winter Weather: Global Warming’s Wake-Up Call for the Northern United States: National Wildlife Federation, 2010.
3) Harsh Winter a Sign of Disruptive Climate Change, Report Says, by Juliet Eilperin and David A. Fahrenthold. Washington Post, 1/28/10.