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Monday, October 31, 2011

Northeast October snow: Should we be scared?

Photo by ronk53 (Flicker)
A record-breaking nor’easter this weekend killed over a dozen people and crushed much of the Northeast’s power grid. Millions are out of electrical service and repair estimates are days or weeks away.

That this winter storm came so early has some wondering if this is proof of climate change—if we should be worried that this is the new normal.  For others, the storm showed us that “global warming” is a big hoax. After all, why would we get so much snow so early if the world is heating up?

Both views are misguided. The latter is simplistic because climate change is not about a uniform rise in global temperatures or a narrowing of the boundaries of winter. Rather, anthropomorphic climate change postulates that increased thermal energy (caused by human pollution) will alter in odd ways how the planet distributes heat and moisture, or lack thereof. The first view is also simplistic, because weather is not climate. No one weather event—or even an isolated cluster of events—can tell you much about our climate. That’s because climate changes are measured over the long haul—over decades and centuries. Climate is measured by trends, not single events.

Sure, this was an odd storm. But for the Catholic ecologist, it was also a tragic one, and no amount of bickering over climate change is doing any good for those that are suffering without power, or those who have lost loved ones.

For these millions, and especially for the souls of those killed during the storm, we Catholics must pray on this All Hollow’s Eve that the saints in heaven seek comfort for the afflicted. And on Wednesday, All Souls Day, we must pray for all the souls lost in this storm and in all the wild weather of the past year.

May God bring peace and comfort to those who need it, and may His Holy Spirit bring understanding and wisdom to the scientists and policy makers who labor to understand just what the climate is up to.

1 comment:

  1. Weather is not climate. I like this phrase. No that the idea of climate change is in the wider world, it is true that one of the difficulties is keeping the concept from falling prey to the simplistic rhetoric from both sides described above.


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