Notes from a Warming World

Temperature Gauge

The Ghosts Did It

More Americans believe in haunted houses than global warming. That’s the scary fact revealed by a comparison of the latest Pew poll on global warming and a recent Gallup survey. The new stats are spooky. The percentage of Americans who say there is solid evidence that global temperatures are rising dropped from 71 percent to 57 percent since early 2008. Thirty-five percent of respondents to the Pew poll say that global warming is a serious problem, down from 44 percent. And the percentage of those who believe that global warming is caused by human activity dropped from 47 percent to 36 percent. Meanwhile, according to Gallup, 37 percent of Americans believe that houses can be haunted. Climate change, evidently, is just a phantom menace.

The silver lining – sort of – is that about half the population believes carbon limits should be set for companies. And there are still more people who believe the world is warming than believe in evolution. Darwin’s theory only won over 39 percent of those polled by Gallup.

Guaranteed Vacation

What if you could get a money-back guarantee of good weather on your next vacation? That’s the sort of promise some tourism boards are offering to visitors. They’re able to do so because they’ve purchased climate-based insurance. The United Nation’s World Meteorological Organization thinks more people should get in on it – not only can it lead to a clever marketing scheme, but it also helps tourism-dependent regions safeguard their economies against changing weather patterns.

Barbados, for example, guarantees travelers that daytime temperatures won’t drop below 78.8° F or that more than .2 inches of rain will fall. Some ski resorts in Europe and North America offer a refund if snowfall is inadequate. A chain of wine bars in London took insurance for every Thursday and Friday when temperatures did not reach 75.2° F, reckoning chilly days keep drinkers away.

“Much more should be done to mainstream climate considerations into tourism policy,” Alain Dupeyras of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development told Reuters. Given that tropical island states generate $221 billion of the $735 billion in annual tourism revenue, it’s not a terrible idea. Maldives, we hope you’re listening.

Spoiling the View

The massive wind and solar installations now in the works are turning up the volume on America’s “not in my backyard” refrain. The Associated Press reports that California residents are fighting solar farms proposed in the Mojave Desert while East Coast locals don’t much care for the idea of wind farms blocking their views. Brits and Canucks are driving similar backlashes: In the UK, local opposition is holding up proposed wind projects, and resistance in Ontario led to the passage of legislation in May that allows local opponents to challenge wind projects for aesthetic reasons. In a 2008 report, the Paris-based International Energy Agency cited NIMBY sentiment as among the top five threats to the worldwide growth of renewable energy. Opposing wind farms or solar installations for aesthetic reasons seems to miss the forest for the trees. Because as warming temperatures dislocate ecosystems those beloved views might disappear altogether. The opposition seems, well, shortsighted.

photo of men in camouflage posing near the number 350 spelled in sandbags on the ground, humvees and firearms evidentSimon Lim Stop or we’ll shoot! U.S. soldiers stationed in eastern Afghanistan
participated in the worldwide 350 protest to stop global warming.

All Together Now

On October 24, millions of people participated in over 5,200 climate change actions, all centered on a number: 350. Three hundred and fifty parts per million is the level of CO2 that some scientists say we need to return to in order to avoid the myriad negative consequences of global warming; currently there are 387 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. While some have said that 350 is an impossible goal, founder Bill McKibben disagrees. In addition to providing a single, unifying theme for millions of people who all have different realities and speak different languages, the number represents a new way to understand climate change. “We need to be thinking about reducing, not going up more slowly,” he told The New York Times. “Three-fifty is the number that says wartime footing, let’s see how fast we can possibly move, and let’s hope against hope that it’s fast enough.”

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