Weather is not climate

Jan 7 2018 Letter-to-the-Editor by George Banziger, Marietta, OH
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

The eastern portion of the U.S. is experiencing a severe cold snap. Those who deny the irrefutable pattern of scientific facts for human-induced climate change have jumped on this weather event as evidence against climate change. For example, in a characteristically sarcastic tweet Donald Trump mentioned it will be the coldest New Year’s Eve in New York, and we need some of that “good old-fashioned global warming.”

What the president and many other people fail to recognize is that weather is not climate. While weather is temporary and regional; climate involves long-term global phenomena. And the evidence for human-induced climate change is undeniable. The year 2014 was the hottest on record globally; 2015 was hotter than 2014; 2016 was hotter than 2015; and 2017 was the hottest year on record without (the temporary warming effect of) an El Nino. Sea level rises are occurring all over the world and threaten most directly and most immediately major cities along the ocean like Miami Beach. Glaciers from Greenland to the Antarctic, as well as sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, are retreating at an accelerating pace. Ocean temperatures worldwide are warming, giving rise to extreme storms such as hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017. Deforestation has created two effects — more carbon emissions from burning of trees and the elimination of trees as a “sink” for carbon dioxide. Prolonged droughts throughout the world, which are a consequence of climate change, have resulted in wildfires such as the Thomas Fire in California, and increasing desertification in Africa, Asia and Australia.

There is a 98 percent consensus among climate experts about the effect of burning fossil fuels and generating carbon emissions as the cause of these disturbing trends of climate change. Yet we have a president and an administration in Washington that refuse to recognize and act on this undeniable scientific evidence, and which has removed the U.S. from international agreements which address climate change.

One needs to do more than look out one’s back window on a cold January day to know about climate change. Once a person does recognize the importance of addressing the urgent issue of human-induced climate change, there are many actions one can take: adopting some habits and lifestyle changes to reduce carbon emissions such as grocery shopping with re-usable bags, using LED lights, installing solar panels on one’s house, place of work, or house of worship, buying a hybrid or electric vehicle, walking or bicycling to work; encouraging our public officials to adopt policies that reduce carbon emissions and that address climate change; and joining the Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action group.

George Banziger