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On Saturday, January 6, 2007, it was 70 degrees where I live. People were wearing t-shirts, shorts, and sandals as they walked down the street. I even drove to the store with my windows rolled down and my sunroof open.
This wouldn’t be news if it was the start of June instead of the start of January, or if I lived in a part of the country where it is summer all year long. However, I live in Pennsylvania. We’re accustomed to things called “seasons” here.
It’s all over the news nowadays. Wherever you look, people who aren’t accustomed to quote/unquote “t-shirt weather” are talking about how unseasonably warm it is.
If you live in a California- or Florida-like climate, then perhaps you don’t think this is news. What’s happening in traditionally wintery parts of America is relevant to all of us, though—not just in America, but all over the world.
The weather we’ve been having lately represents the biggest problem with global warming: That is, that it’s working. Or at the very least it seems to be.
Any number of morning and nightly news programs have felt the need to discuss “this warm weather” over the last few weeks. Their news segments have invariably started and ended the same way: First, they point out that the warm weather has many people thinking global warming; then they bring on the experts to tell us this weather is actually due to El Niño (which, of course, is Spanish for “The Niño,” for all you Chris Farley fans).
Whether this weather has anything to do with global warming is irrelevant, though. The only thing that matters is that people think it has something to do with global warming. We’ve now come to the point where global warming is the automatic assumption whenever the weather is unusually warm.
This is important to note because no one is “blaming” global warming, per se. When you live in the northeastern part of North America and can leave your house wearing sandals the first week in January, you don’t “blame” whatever source is allowing you to do this. You give it credit. And that’s what’s happening with global warming here. People are giving global warming credit for the weather we’re having. The long-term prognosis may not be good. But in the short term, global warming seems to be working.
Can you blame us for enjoying this?
I’m not an environmentalist, but I care enough about the environment to give environmentalists a tip: Take a look at how people are responding to recent weather trends. This is what you’re up against.
Preserving the planet for future generations is never going to work as a strategy for stopping global warming. You can’t guilt self-interested human beings into making a down payment on something they won’t even live to see the rewards of.
People need something in the here and now. My suggestion would be to get serious—and I mean seriously serious—about alternative fuels. No more sitting around waiting for the government to do it. If Bono can raise untold billions fighting AIDS, and Bill Gates can donate God only knows how much of his fortune to the same cause, it’s time to find some ultra-wealthy public figures willing to help fund a fast, furious, well-publicized push towards alternative fuel sources.
Make these fuels affordable and widely available, and I can guarantee you people will buy them. If it saves the world—great. But people will care about saving money first.
People like things that make their lives better. The warm weather we’ve been having lately proves it.