Year 4, Month 7, Day 26: Until You’ve Learned The Meaning Of The Blues

The Iowa Gazette’s Jennifer Hemmingsen thinks it’s time for people to talk about climate:

It’s a cliche, but it’s true: We Midwesterners sure like talking about the weather.

And why not? It’s not only the constant variation (run out of things to say about humidity? Wait a week and we’ll be talking about how dry it’s been), and vital importance to our rural economy, the subject also plays to our strengths.

Chatting about weather levels the field. Anyone can play. You can ante up with wisdom from your grandparents, share what you heard on the Weather Channel or just make your own observations (“Boy, it’s like an oven out there”). You can spout predictions without being confrontational and end disagreements with a smile and a shrug. We’ll get what we get, after all. You can’t control the weather.

And I guess that’s why what should be a breezy transition to talking climate change instead has been so fraught and frustrating: So many of those old rules don’t apply.

We do need clarity in our national discourse. July 8:

With all due respect to Jennifer Hemmingsen, it’s not just Midwesterners who love talking about the weather. From Iowa to India, Iceland to Indiana — it’s one of the most universal of subjects. And no wonder: while daily conditions may vary in interesting ways, the fact is that every aspect of our complex and interdependent culture is built on a single foundation: the relatively benign, relatively predictable climate which has made our agriculture-based way of life possible.

While the weather may vary from day to day (giving us something to discuss), our environment’s current transformations are something altogether different. The accelerating greenhouse effect is trapping heat in the atmosphere, increasing evaporation as the air temperature rises. More humidity means more precipitation — and more heat means more frequent storms, along with a general rise in all sorts of unpredictable extreme weather — all, needless to say, bad for agriculture.

But unlike the weather, everybody’s doing something about the climate (especially the industrialized societies which are responsible for the lion’s share of greenhouse emissions), while nobody’s talking about it. To mitigate what looks ever more like a future of crop failures, infrastructural collapses, and humanitarian crises, our elected leaders and our media establishment must address the causes and consequences of climate change.

Warren Senders


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