There’s no doubt this past winter has been full of snowstorms (where were these pre-pandemic days when we actually had snow days?). Everyone has been talking about the nationwide snowstorms, seemingly on a weekly basis. Some are saying climate change is the culprit. Others say climate change is the reason for milder winters. So what’s the truth? Does climate change even have anything to do with the snowstorms? Here’s the breakdown:
Milder temperatures? Yes. Fewer Snowstorms? Nope.
Climate change has undoubtedly affected our winters. The production of fossil fuels has led to a marked increase in greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and increase the temperatures on Earth. The average winter temperature has risen 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970 in New York City. Average annual winter temperatures are increasing at three times the rate of summer temperatures. Yet, despite the rising temperatures, harsh winter weather is becoming more extreme and frequent than ever before. There are two main reasons. First, as our atmosphere heats up, it’s able to retain more moisture and release heavy precipitation, which can fall as snow during the winter. The second reason is the polar vortex. The heating Arctic is shifting the jet stream, and the energy that escapes from it interferes with the polar vortex, essentially causing cold air to move further South than it normally does—like the recent Texas storms—and creating more extreme weather conditions (for a more detailed explanation, read this article).
So what do we do?
The largest contributor to the recent snowstorms and extreme weather is our greenhouse gas production. It comes from the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, livestock farming, and much more. Climate change disproportionately affects people of color and those living in poor communities. As of 2030, over 250,000 more people will die from climate-change-related causes, and it will force millions more into poverty according to the World Health Organization. While all we often see in Chatham is colder weather and more shoveling, rising temperatures have a devastating impact on people across the world. It might sound like the same old spiel—ride your bike, cut down your meat consumption, turn off the lights—but that’s because it’s still necessary. We need to take climate change seriously. Many of us in Chatham have the privilege of being able to make an impact, whether it’s by taking small, individual steps or fighting for big companies to make a change. Snowstorms might be fun but take this as a wake-up call. Continuing as we have been is selfish, prioritizing our wants and our comfort over the lives, safety, and health of others. Educate yourself and take action.
To learn more about the inequality and disastrous effects of climate change, check out the resources below:
4 Reasons Why Climate Change is a Racial Issue (by Ben and Jerry’s) (yes, even Ben & Jerry’s knows what’s up)