From time to time I decide to discuss the weather. This used to be the standard, awkward conversation people would have when they had nothing to say to each other. These dialogues would consist of intermittent pauses, and mumbles every bit as much to themselves, as to whomever is half-listening. But the weather has taken on a larger significance in recent years, the severity and confusion of every single day creating such an inconsistent narrative that we cannot help but realize something is very wrong. This piece, as the title directly states, is “For Climate Change Deniers.” This is for those who doubt the greatest threat to our species, and it’s drastic escalation.
First of all, I can understand the resistance people have to buying into such an apocalyptic notion that we have influenced the weather to such a great extent that we are killing ourselves. Some people might acknowledge that the climate is changing, sure, but then cite curious historical patterns that, coming from someone denying science, cannot possibly hold any weight. They say things like “The weather has always changed,” and “On earth these things always go in a cycle.” But if you ask them if that means we are about to enter another ice age, they can only fall back on the discarded malaprop environmentalists used to call ‘global warming.” They smugly mock, “It’s minus forty degrees in Chicago today! Where’s your global warming now?” This is stated like a super-villain terrorizing victims because Superman has disappeared.
We can take this point to talk about religion, the primary excuse people use to explain away things they cannot understand. “God knows what He’s (It–I always say It, with the capital ‘I,’ because why would such an all-powerful entity have a gender at all?) doing.” Or they grimly state that whatever current calamity is simply punishment for our sins. But science seems to disprove this, or at the very least offer a valid alternative explanation.
I am not a scientist, nor are the complexities of the physical universe something that I particularly understand (I had a fascination with theoretical physics and cosmology late in my college career, when I had a number of random electives to fill up, but this certainly does not make me an expert, those elementary courses I took twenty-five years ago). I am mostly a sociological critic, someone who studies the behaviors and reactions of people to the many problems that get in our way. I’m a bit of a historian, expanding those perceptions into speculation about the past, and I range often in the direction of individual psychology in order to try and understand what different people believe. As far as the complicated science questions, I tend to lean on the experts.
But, without getting into a dense, detail-oriented discussion of concepts which I hardly understand, I wish to offer a few examples of recent years that I believe proves the reality of these encroaching dangers:
I live just outside of a large city, east coast USA. The weather is extremely hot in the summer, and very cold in the winter. But the dates and duration of these seasons has drastically changed since I was a child. Remember dreaming of a ‘White Christmas?’ I cannot remember the last time in snowed in December around here, other than the occasional cold, wet day where a few morning flurries were washed away by afternoon rain. In fact, recent Decembers have sometimes featured days ranging in temperature (Fahrenheit) from 20 degrees one day, to 70 degrees the next.
January comes across more like winter is meant to be, although the zigzagging of temperatures does not abate. There can be three days in the sixties, followed by a fourth that drops fifty degrees overnight. February is still winter, but now comes across more as the beginning of the season, those late November days when the autumn has broken, and the chill seeps into your bones. Although, of course, there are still days far too warm for February, and since it has been so wet since the Spring, the air itself is moist, and the humidity is deadly. When it rains it really rains, and when it snows, a great deal of the wet, heavy stuff covers everything, before melting quite rapidly and overflowing the gutters. Heart-attack victims increase every year.
Last March–every year now the time of blizzards–this was the sequence of a single week. Things started out nervous–the calls for a major snow storm–a Nor’easter rampaging down from Canada to blanket the east coast all the way through Northern Florida. The day before the storm hit, all of the air felt like it was sucked out of the sky. It was terribly dry, and it was curiously warm, sort of like the eye of a tornado. When the storm hit, it was big, but not as huge as called for. We all cynically shrugged our shoulders and blamed the weatherman. It was a day off school for the children. We all played.
Two days later, through the icy cold, another Nor’easter slammed into the coast, this time dropping nearly a foot of snow, and trapping us, once again, in our homes. By this point the outside became more like the isolation and frayed nerves of The Shining, all of us barking at each other, wanting to spend just a little time by ourselves.
The next day it went up to sixty degrees. It was weird. Everything was melting, the swamp of the street making it perhaps even more difficult to drive through than the sheets of ice. Some people went outside wearing shorts. Spring animals were coming out of their holes. It seemed as though the worst had passed.
The following three days went in a sequence like this: third Nor’easter, this time dropping more than a foot of snow, the next day literally shooting up to seventy-five degrees, everyone now rather scared, not understanding what was going on in the world. Then came the day after that–we got 20 inches of snow, added onto the mounds that remained in patches from the overheated snowplows, transforming the world into a snowblind horror. People were wandering around aimlessly outside, turning their heads from side to side with no idea what to do next. It was like we were walking around without a fixed destination the day after the world ended.
The summer was unbearably hot, and the brutality of hurricanes swarmed all over the planet, killing many, and sinking land under the water. Polar icecaps were melting, overflowing low-lying land. Tornadoes swirling everywhere, and the occasional cold front caused everyone to catch whichever summer virus had sprouted out of the earth itself as a defense mechanism. Like the winter daily temperatures shifted radically. We would go from over one hundred degrees that morning, all the way down to forty-five at night.
The severity and frequency of these storms is far more common than any of us alive have ever experienced–and do not rant at me about the winter of 19–whatever, and how you remember having three days off of school. I am referring to the commonality of those massive events. Remember: a blizzard is simply a hurricane in the cold.
Right now the north and mid west are getting the worst of it. This causes people here on the east coast to ruminate that perhaps the worst is passed. This winter is “not so bad,” you hear people saying, completely disregarding the polar swarms that have overtaken an enormous amount of space in the nation and the world. Some of these days we luxuriate in the unseasonable warmth, while Minnesota gets three feet of snow, and a temperature of thirty degrees below zero, not even taking into account the chill provided by the wind (‘wind chill factor’ is pretty meaningless as far as I am concerned. If the ‘wind chill’ puts a twenty-eight degree day at zero, then it’s zero degrees outside).
This is what it looks like outside today:
Here’s a few more images from other times and seasons throughout the past year:
These pictures are not me searching the internet for the worst possible example. They are merely random searches with simple words like ‘Hurricane 2018,’ ‘Polar Vortex (when has the word ‘vortex’ ever implied something positive?), and ‘Environmental problems 2018.’ These were the first few pictures to show up from those vaguely descriptive terms.
This sort of disaster is everywhere, all over the world. It is not like that terrible winter one year when you were young, nor is it remembering the hurricane that flooded the streets. I mean, the terms ‘once in a generation,’ and ‘hundred year storm,’ and the scientific comparisons made to the past tell us something about the world that we have never experienced.
Our climate is changing, and it appears to be changing very fast. There is no way to discount that something outside of the natural order has enhanced this trouble. Look to the skyline, and the sea, and all the land surrounding civilization:
This is what we have done to the earth–in many ways literally our mother. She took billions of years to develop a landscape and environment that was capable of sustaining, and allowing to flourish, all the numerous forms of life blessed to call this great beauty home. Like the selfish children we are, we have taken everything offered and then demanded more more more! Does it surprise anyone that she is fighting back? Does anyone doubt that she is winning?