It’s early in the day but nearly 80 degrees and dazzlingly sunny. There’s not a cloud in the sky. The humidity is around 20 percent and dropping. I can’t remember the last time it rained. It must be global warming!
But wait a minute. Let’s consider the difference between weather and climate. One changes daily and the other can’t be seen out your window. Climate means patterns of weather, over lots of time.
But many people still judge their own local climate — and that of the entire planet — by what the see out the window. Right now the hot weather on both U.S. coasts has many Americans grumbling that, contrary to their feelings a few short months ago in the depths of a cold winter, this global warming stuff must really be happening. Well, is it?
Yes, global warming is happening. But your local weather is not how you should come to that conclusion. Yet that’s what people keep doing.
According to a recent report by the folks at the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC), the percentage of Americans who believe global warming is happening dropped 7 points to 63 percent, from fall 2012 to April 2013. The cause, they suspect, is the relatively cold winter of 2012-13 and an unusually cold March just before the survey was undertaken.
“Some people think weather and climate are the same thing,” explains Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the YPCCC. “When they experience cold weather or a big snowstorm, they think that perhaps global warming isn’t happening. When they experience a heat wave, they are more likely to say it is happening. That’s why helping people understand the difference between weather and climate is important.”
So if you can’t judge by the weather outside, what should we base their climate/weather opinions on? That’s easy: science.
There are dozens of organizations trying to educate the public — and the media — about the science of climate change. Here are just a few: