Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Extreme Weather Punctuates Warming

Back in mid-March, when the weather cracked the 70-degree mark for the first time this year, my friend introduced me to a great saying. Across a table at Leo’s, he grandly announced that we were basking in “double appendage” weather. That is, the temperature was finally within the narrow range in which it is comfortable for people like me to expose either pale, bare arms or pasty, bare legs. Given the more recent weather, it can be safely said that Georgetown is thoroughly immersed in quadruple appendage weather.

Since this past winter was my first in the Northern Hemisphere, it was destined to be memorable for me personally. But the successive Snowmaggedons that crippled the city have ensured that I will not be alone in remembering this year’s cold season.

There are lessons that can be learned from the experience of this winter – beyond how to best duck snowballs when walking below overpasses on campus. Namely, it is important to look at the big picture when considering these weather patterns.

At the same time that we were shivering through record-breaking blizzards, my hometown of Sydney, Australia, was sweltering through one of its hottest and longest summers in history. Many argue that one symptom of climate change will be disruptions in established weather patterns. This past season certainly seems to indicate a departure from usual. Yet, according to opponents of any political action to curb the emission of greenhouse gases, each snowflake was another nail in the coffin of Al Gore’s credibility.

To characterize a cold winter in one tiny part of the world as incontrovertible evidence against global warming is dangerously short-sighted. It ignores the nuanced explanations of scientific research that indicate that the effects of the climate change phenomenon will be felt unequally within and across different parts of the planet. More importantly, it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what climate change actually is. Global warming does not mean that we will never have to wear a winter coat. Rather, it means that, as its effects unfold, the predictability of weather patterns will decrease and unusual weather events will occur more and more frequently.

Just before Easter break, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu gave a well-informed, seminar-style presentation in Gaston Hall. Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, presented data to a gathering of policy-minded students, and then left it up to them to form their own opinions as to the best political responses to a fascinating complex scientific phenomenon. Chu also spent a good portion of his talk on a defense of climate change science.

But can we all now agree that it’s time to move on? Surely, enough is enough. Those who are unconvinced by the scientific arguments put forward, that human emissions are altering the natural environment to the extent that the earth’s climate is changing for the worse, could remain recalcitrant for a long time to come.

With a great deal of respect for the quiet manner in which experts calmly explain over and over the validity of their cause, impatience is creeping into my perception of the issue. On a final note, in the interests of disclosure, I composed much of this article while hurtling through the skies above the United States encased in a gas-guzzling metal tube.

None of us can approach this complex policy realm and remain immune to charges of hypocrisy. We can, however, speed up the discussion of policy solutions to it, compelled by recognition of the complexities we face in dealing with climate change. Global warming is not slowing down, and neither should we.

Andrew Swanson is a student at the University of Sydney and is studying at Georgetown for the semester. The Land Up Over appears every other Friday.

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