Are Pleasant Winters Adding to Public Apathy?

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In many parts of the U.S., including Kansas where I live, winter never arrived this year. It was replaced by an extended autumn, which blended by mid-February into an early spring.

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When friends commented on the delightful weather in January or February, my typical response was, “We’re going to get stuck with a myriad of bad consequences due to climate change, so we might as well enjoy the good ones — few though they may be.” I wondered, however, if the pleasant wintertime weather would add to people’s apathy.

Recently, a pair of professors wondered the same thing. In search of an answer they looked at the relationship between the weather throughout the U.S. and the population distribution. They found that “[f]or a vast majority of Americans, the weather is simply becoming more pleasant.” They concluded:

To those of us who believe climate change is the most profound challenge of our age, our discovery is both illuminating and disheartening. In previous work, we’ve shown that Americans make sense of climate change in part through their personal experience of the weather. Our new findings suggest that the weather changes caused by global warming cannot be relied on to spur the public to demand policies that address the problem. By the time the weather changes for the worse later in this century, it may be too late…. [So] when we do discuss temperatures, we should acknowledge the temporarily pleasant side effects of global warming. But then we should stress that these agreeable conditions will one day vanish — like ice on a warm winter day.

If you’d like to take a look at the entire article, “Global Warming Feels Quite Pleasant,” by Patrick J. Egan and Megan Mullin, you can find it here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/24/opinion/sunday/global-warming-feels-quite-pleasant.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

 

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