In the United States, climate change ranks consistently low on the list of the public’s priorities for government action. But what is driving such massive apathy towards what even President Obama himself called “one of the biggest threats facing our planet today”?
New research seems to suggest that it could be linked to the weather that American citizens have been experiencing over the last four decades. The study, published in Nature, finds that an incredible 80 percent of people in the United States now live in a region that is experiencing more favorable weather today than it was 40 years ago.
This personal experience, the researchers suggest, could be driving the apathy and lack of public concern towards climate change. But it won’t last. This golden period of pleasant weather is set to change, and as climate change intensifies more and more, Americans will become negatively affected.
“The everyday year-round effects that most Americans are familiar with in regards to climate change is their daily weather,” New York University’s Patrick Egan, co-author of the study, told IFLScience. “Here in the United States, it is the case that winter weather has become much warmer for most Americans, whereas summer weather has not. Given that Americans – and generally most humans – like warmer winters and don’t like particularly hot summers, the typical American experience of the weather so far in the global warming era has perhaps been positive.”
The researchers suggest that New York is now experiencing winters akin to those experienced by Washington D.C. 40 years ago. f11photo/Shutterstock
The temperatures in January have risen on average 0.58°C (1.04°F) per decade, compared to a much smaller increase in July of just 0.07°C (0.13°F) across all of the U.S., coupled with a reduction in humidity during the summer months. This has meant that rather than more people moving to better climates, the winter weather across the board has improved. Egan explains that it is akin to people in Boston now experiencing weather normally associated with New York 40 years ago, while those in New York are experiencing the weather of Washington D.C., and so forth.
But there is a very real danger that this research could be seized upon by those groups still fighting against action to mitigate climate change. Egan is quick to point out that while the “typical American is now experiencing weather that they would prefer on a year-round basis compared to the 1970s,” this is not something that will last as the planet continues to heat up in the future.
“Global warming is doing a lot of really negative things, and will continue to do so,” said Egan. “What we find is that at some point in the middle of the century, these warming trends will reverse themselves, in that summers will start to get hotter at a much faster rate than winters.”
This means that the typical American will then be experiencing scorching summers at the end of the century, without winters becoming warmer at the same time. They predict that this would result in close to 90 percent of Americans facing more negative weather.
Basically, this means that we have time to act, but we must do so quickly. There is still the opportunity to maintain this golden middle ground of more temperate weather, yet the ability to do so is slowly slipping away. Considering people are generally enjoying the weather, the researchers suggest that the impetus to change will not come from the public, but should instead be led by the politicians.