Vail’s Greener Pastures: Do you believe in climate change?
VAIL, Colorado -NPR recently did a piece on how heavy snowstorms in the Northeast are working against those scientists, politicians and environmentalists trying to warn us of global warming. To introduce the story, NPR aired various media banter about the weather, and most of it poked fun at the theory of global warming, along with its biggest ambassador – Al Gore. “Feels more like global cooling,” one disc jockey said.Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C) wrote on Twitter: “It’s going to keep snowing in D.C. until Al Gore cries ‘uncle.'”And the family of Sen. James M. Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma and leading climate skeptic in Congress, built a six-foot tall igloo on Capitol Hill and on it placed a sign that read “Al Gore’s New Home.”Poor Al Gore. But he may still get the last laugh (which means no one wins) because rounding out the NPR story was an interview with Kevin Trenberth, a prominent climate scientist at National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado. Trenberth said that there is no contradiction between a warming world and lots of snow. Warmer water means more water vapor, and what goes up must come down, and in this case it’s big snow. As we know from living in the mountains, those big, luscious powder flakes fall when it’s a little bit warmer outside.But how are the recent snowstorms shaping public perception on climate change? Does it change what you believe? There are some people out there who believe snow equals cold equals no global warming, simply because that is what they believe, and no nerd in a lab coat is going to tell them differently. Currently, according to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press from an October 2009 poll, only 57 percent of Americans think there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades. That is down from a year ago in April 2008, when 71 percent of Americans said there was solid evidence of rising global temperatures.Our beliefs are strong, and at times, more influential than fact. On a social level, think about that girlfriend of yours who is stick skinny, yet believes she is fat. You can tell her she’s thin, put her on a scale and show her an optimal weight chart, but in her own heart, she’s still believes she needs to shed some pounds. George Lakoff, a professor of linguists at the University of California, Berkeley, and a specialist in “framing” the way language shapes the way we think, said in a different NPR story that the debate has to do with the words people are using to define the whole climate issue. Lakoff thinks it should be called “climate crisis,” a crisis for civilization, a crisis for life on earth. The term “global warming,” he said, makes people believe that everywhere on earth is uniformly heating up in temperature – a belief about weather, not climate, which is false and not what climate scientists are predicting.Then there’s “climate change,” a term introduced by conservative Frank Luntz in the 2004 campaign because global warming sounded too scary. Climate change, Lakoff said, has the connotation that it’s just change, it’s happening naturally, whether or not people are responsible. And the word “climate,” Lakoff said, gives off images of palm trees and nice climate, as opposed to the “snowmaggedon” happening in the Northeast. Regardless of what you call it – climate crisis, climate change or global warming my belief is based on the idea of cause and effect. It’s impossible for us to pollute the air, dirty the water and destroy the land without some kind of negative effect. How that negative effect unfolds, in my belief, is just speculation. Who can really know? But who wants to find out? Not me. I’m going to do all I can now to lessen the cause to lessen the effect and hopefully dodge a climate crisis.Freelance writer Cassie Pence is passionate about living a more sustainable lifestyle. She and her husband, Captain Vacuum, own Organic Housekeepers, a green cleaning company. She is interested in hearing what you believe about climate change. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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