For most of us in America, climate change hasn’t yet become a tangible concept that is easily comprehendible the way it is in other international venues. Most of us here don’t live in the Arctic permafrost or on a tropical island, and the Antarctic environment is about as far away from us each physically as it is mentally. We recognize that ice caps are melting, that the level of the sea is escalating, and that global ecosystems are flailing, all because we trust our dependable scientific community. We hear a lot of facts, and we believe the aerial time-lapse photos we’re shown of the drastically changing biomes throughout the world. But for most of us, our climate isn’t changing at a noticeable rate. So, it might as well not even be happening, right?
Well, maybe that’s not quite accurate. On July 15, Climate Central published an interactive map detailing what summers in 1000 cities across the US will be like in 2100 if the current greenhouse gas emission trends continue. The map allows users to input their current city into the search bar to reveal what their summers will be like 86 years from now, and the results are, frankly, startling. 2100’s summer in Chicago will be like 2014’s summer in Mesquite, Texas. New York’s summer will be like today’s summer in Southern Florida. Phoenix, Arizona’s summer in 2100 will be comparable to today’s summer in Kuwait.
Perhaps Phoenix won’t be the go-to vacation spot anymore with average summer temperatures being 114°F.
Studies like this may finally allow climate change to become a perceptible concept for those of us who are not already seeing its effects on a local basis. It brings the issue—one that is already devastatingly present for people and ecosystems across the globe—close to home. And maybe the blunt realism of interactive education like this is what we need to wholly grasp the urgency of this prevailing crisis.
Let me briefly explain one of the most common misconceptions amongst the climate change discussion I hear almost daily. There is a profound difference between atmospheric conditions over a short period of time, or “weather”, versus these conditions measured on grander scales, which is known as “climate”. Climate is measured on these longer-term gradations—from 10 to 100,000,000 year increments—whilst our day-to-day or year-to-year weather patterns aren’t necessarily accurate measurements of overall climate trends due to the presence of natural, short-term climactic variability.
The classic, rudimentary dispute against the necessity of prompt climate action is the ill-informed “it’s snowing in Southern Texas right now, so clearly the planet isn’t warming” argument. This is inaccurate for a myriad of reasons. As was previously mentioned, weather and climate are measured on vastly different scales. Thus, they are not synonyms for one another. The anti-science trend yielding people to discredit the existence global warming could indeed be a convincing and even an accurate argument if, say, the temperature trend in Southern Texas has remained stable since the Industrial revolution. It has not.
Even so, climate change affects each location differently across the globe, so this argument would likely still not be valid if that hypothetical constant trend were indeed factual (which, of course, it is not). The complexities that drive of our global climate system, from geostrophic currents to geologic tectonics, yield diverse climactic alterations in different parts of our planet based on a variety of factors. Latitudinal and longitudinal settings, geomorphic and geologic influence, and the variety of other astronomical and geographical elements have effects so insurmountable that it is not remotely accurate to assume that one short-term local weather event is to discredit an entire, long-term global change.
Simplistic illusions do not outweigh accurate science.