It occurs to me that if the result of climate change was ‘global freezing’ rather than ‘global warming’ we’d be paying a LOT more attention to it. If instead of recent years being the hottest on record they were the coldest, people would be sitting up and taking notice. People don’t like the cold. A little more heat is almost always easier to handle. At least in the short run. But it’s fool’s gold, and it’s blinding us to the truth.
This winter, for example, in Ottawa, Canada, where I live, we experienced an unprecedented heat wave in March. Not only did we break records that had stood for decades, we obliterated them. We were 25 degrees (celsius) above normal some days! Some days we eclipsed the old record for the hottest temperature on that date in the past century by 10 degrees or more! And of course it was glorious in many respects. If we were all somewhat disconcerted (which we were) it wasn’t bothering us too much as we swapped our parkas for swimsuits.
But what if we had eclipsed the record for cold by 10 degrees or more? What if temperatures were 25 degrees colder than normal? What if it was -50 degrees in mid-March in Ottawa? We’d be paying attention to climate change then! What if it was -13 in Athens this March, and 0 degrees in Orlando, -22 in Tokyo, -7 in Dakar, 9 in Singapore (previous all-time low of 19 degrees celsius), etc. Suddenly the dangerous impacts of climate change would become far more real and urgent.
But we don’t have global freezing, except in isolated flash spots as the world’s weather gets upended. No, mostly we get global warming, and mostly we are such suckers that we like it. For now, anyway. We’re like that old trope about the frog in the pot of water on the stovetop, who could easily jump out to save himself but finds the rising temperature so toasty that before he knows it he’s boiled alive. And that’s us.
And hey, I like the warmth too. But I think we’d all be better off – if only because everyone around the world would be highly motivated to stop climate change dead – if instead of global warming we were faced with a little more global freezing. And that’s just the cold hard truth.