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Americans Experience Climate Change as More Pleasant Weather

2016-04-22

Here’s a quote from a New York Times story that should make you worry about convincing the average American that global warming is bad:

Climatologists customarily report weather changes averaged over the land surface — an approach that counts changes in sparse Montana just as heavily as shifts in populous California. But because we were interested in the typical American’s exposure to weather, we took a different tack, calculating changes over time on a county-by-county basis, weighted by population.

Our findings are striking: 80 percent of Americans now find themselves living in counties where the weather is more pleasant than it was four decades ago. Although warming during this period has been considerable, it has not been evenly distributed across seasons. Virtually all Americans have experienced a rise in January maximum daily temperatures — an increase of 1.04 degrees Fahrenheit per decade on average — while changes in daily maximum temperatures in July have been much more variable across counties, rising by an average of just 0.13 degrees Fahrenheit per decade over all. Moreover, summer humidity has declined during this period.

As a result, most people’s experiences with daily weather since the time that they first heard about climate change have generally been positive. By our calculations, the mild winters now regularly experienced in New York City make its weather nearly as pleasant as that of Virginia Beach back in the 1970s.

To those of us who believe climate change is the most profound challenge of our age, our discovery is both illuminating and disheartening.

In order to convince people that global warming is dangerous, we need a more intellectual argument, because their experience of the weather is “rather pleasant.”

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