I don’t have grandchildren. So I get my ‘grandpa fix’ by volunteering in 2 different children’s ministries. I love the things children come up with, especially their questions and their explanations of the world around them!
“Why are the clouds mad at us?” asked Rosemary on a very foggy morning.
“I don’t think the clouds ARE mad at us Rosemary” I responded. She retorted, “Then why did they come down after us?”
Her understanding of what fog might mean is fairly normal for her age and she just wanted a little reassurance that something scary wasn’t coming to get her. If clouds actually had humanlike emotions and wills of their own, then her concern makes sense.
But we grown ups know that fog, rain, thunderstorms, snow and such are caused by things like high pressure systems , cold fronts, the moisture content of clouds, the jet stream and so much more. We may not be able to explain it, but we’ve listened to enough weather reports to be familiar with the terms.
Lately though it seems like every time there’s a weather event of extreme cold, heat, rain or snow someone is claiming it is evidence that climate change is either happening or not happening.While it is true that heavier rains and snows, droughts and stronger storms are an expected result of ongoing climate change, we cannot say for certain which of these events are the result of climate change. We can, however, see if they fit a pattern of changing weather over time.
Climate has to do with long term trends measured in decades not by individual weather events or even a whole season of unusual weather.
An example of a climate trend would be the Earth’s land and ocean temperatures from 1880 to 2012. During this period temperatures warmed roughly 1.53°F (0.85ºC), according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Climate scientists expect this general warming trend to continue for quite awhile. Major consequences are already being experienced and much more is anticipated.According to these scientists our emissions of carbon dioxide through the burning of fossil fuels, along with deforestation,is the primary cause of our worldwide changing climate.
Children like Rosemary are inheriting a world where the weather is expected to get increasingly scary, even to adults. What will we tell the children of tomorrow when they ask why the clouds are mad at us? If there are actions we can take now to protect them from the worst of it, shouldn’t we find out what they are?
photo at top of page is of Coatesville,PA taken from a slow moving Amtrak train the morning after a major ice storm.