It’s brutally cold and, as of this writing, getting colder. For people who live in the Midwest and are under thirty, this is likely the coldest weather they’ve ever experienced in their lives. Be careful; it is dangerously frigid out there.
So, what does President Trump do? Rather than offering comfort or caution to the nation’s homeless or tips on how to be safe, he sends the most ludicrous tweet:
“In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming [sic]? Please come back fast, we need you!”
The response to this ill-informed view was swift and clear. Says meteorologist Jason Samenow, “The warming of the climate system is unambiguous and irrefutable. The last four years have been the four warmest years on record for the planet. If you don’t believe thermometers over land areas, there are all kinds of additional indicators such as decreasing polar ice, melting glaciers, longer flowering and pollen seasons, and rising temperatures in lakes, streams and oceans.”
The words of some, like Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, were not as measured, but rather dripped in ridicule and disdain: “Global warming isn’t real because I was cold today! Also great news: World hunger is over because I just ate.”
The quirky (and widely popular, under the radar) boredpanda.com offered a concise illustration of the difference between weather and climate: “In most places, weather can change from minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, day-to-day, and season-to-season. Climate, however, is the average of weather over time and space. An easy way to remember the difference is that climate is what you expect, like a very hot summer, and weather is what you get, like a hot day with pop-up thunderstorms.
“And while President Trump frequently uses the term ‘global warming’ instead of ‘climate change’ the two are not interchangeable. The rising temperatures of the earth due to greenhouse gas is only one of many effects of climate change.” Mr. President, are you listening?
The impact of how interrelated the effects of climate change are hit home dramatically for me last summer when I was in Nova Scotia. My wife and I were driving in Cape Breton, one of the most northeastern parts of North America. Nova Scotia is steeped in greens and blues as the forests interplay with the ocean. It was a beautiful, crystal clear day. As we headed home in the afternoon, it began to get hazy. I’m from New York, so hazy afternoons are not uncommon and I thought nothing of it.
At dinnertime, the guitar player in the small folk-band at the restaurant welcomed us out-of-towners. He apologized for the overcast sky. Then he said something I will never forget. “It isn’t actually cloudy. It’s smoke from the fires burning in California and British Columbia.”
The California wildfires—a full continent away—were affecting the weather in rural, far eastern Canada. It is trite to say, but we are all in this boat together. And the captain of this ship seems to have no understanding of the power of the sea or the potential for disaster that lurks beneath. It would all be laughable if it weren’t so scary, and so sad.