The climate is something huge, abstract and imperceivable to our human senses, while the weather is something that we experience intimately every day. Extreme weather events get media attention and we get to talk a lot about them. Heatwaves, hurricanes, tornadoes, arctic vortexes, etc, captivate the individual and collective attention. As the warming of the planet makes these events more frequent and severe, we can be sure that we will hear and talk more and more about them. When we discuss about these events, especially on social media, global warming “skeptics” think that we’re trying to use them as a proof of climate change. But that’s not what most of us are doing. We don’t prove that the Earth is warming by pointing to an isolated event like a huge forest fire a historic drought or a heatwave. We know that the Earth is warming because of extremely sophisticated computer models, that have proven their utility and accuracy time and time again. We can only prove that global warming is real through complex measurements, not through our own physical senses.
Not a proof, but undoubtedly a manifestation
This doesn’t mean that all of these extreme meteorological events are not directly connected to global warming, they are in fact inseparable from it, and a manifestation of the changing climate. We understand that the atmosphere is warmer and moister as a result of human activity. Since we have changed the composition of the atmosphere, all events happening in that system are connected to human activity. Every meteorological event happens within the context of the local and global climate systems. We can’t separate them and talk about them in isolation. We can’t know how a particular heatwave would have looked like without the extra CO2, but on the global scale, we see undeniable trends. When we talk about the weather, we are inadvertently talking about global warming, whether we realize this, our not. The fact that climate change deniers think that we are using extreme weather events as a proof, tells us a lot about the way they think.
A ‘special’ worldview…
The Earth has warmed and it will continue to warm as a result of human activity, there is no way to deny that without engaging in a paranoid way of thinking. The very fact that climate deniers see us talking about a heatwave as an attempt to prove something to them is very telling of their worldview. I don’t think that comparing their reactions to those of flat-earthers is an exaggeration.
When people who believe that the Earth is flat see footage of the space station or a photo of a distant galaxy taken by a satellite, they think that the scientists who are working on and putting out this information are actively trying to deceive them. When they look at those pictures, flat-earthers see people who are attempting to prove that the Earth is round. But of course, the roundness of the Earth is completely evident in the context of astronomy, nobody is trying to prove it. In a very similar way, climate deniers perceive the discussion about extreme weather as an attempt to deceive them and as an argument trying to prove that global warming is happening.
So why do we talk about the weather?
Talking about these events is not an attempt to prove anything, we’re just having a conversation about the consequences and manifestations of the warmer climate. The proof for global warming is much more solid than a very cold, very warm or very wet day. Yet, we understand that talking about these events is important, because they allow everyone to experience something very big and abstract, on a scale that we can understand and perceive. We have to use the public debate around these events in order to spark a conversation about the climate crisis. This conversation shouldn’t be about the existence of the problem, we’ve had that debate for decades, we need to talk about the urgency to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and halt deforestation.
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Steve the Bartender