• Prose and Purpose

    After 25 years on the job, a former provost examines the world on campus and in higher ed.


Climate Control

The university was closed last Tuesday as the cleanup began after a major snow storm. With an extra day and a half at home, I have been doing the things you do when you have extra time.

February 1, 2015

The University was closed last Tuesday as the cleanup began after a major snow storm. We actually closed Monday at 1 PM before the snow intensified and the area roads became problematic. With an extra day and a half at home, I have been doing the things you do when you have extra time. I straightened out closets, read newspapers and magazines, and, of course, continuously monitored email as well as TV, radio and online news.

The news has been almost all snow storm focused. Juno has been analyzed and talked about from every angle. In addition to weather forecasts, there have been stories on shovels and snow blower sales, including interviews with both buyers and sellers of these important items; stories on air travel and travel by rail, or car; schools closing, including interviews with multiple public school students; grocery shopping, including the run on bread and water; interviews with politicians and civil servants at almost all levels; multiple visuals of snow falling, wind blowing, and road traffic, including everything from cars skidding to almost car free highways. Even visuals of salt and sand “mountains,” trucks loading to bring the salt and sand to slippery roads, and the impact of a major snow storm on the size of these mountains. 

Just over a week ago there was a heat related article that appeared in newspapers for a day. The article reported that 2014 was the hottest year on earth since record keeping began 135 years. The article also noted that hottest year records seem to be broken more and more frequently.  As serious as this is, it is nevertheless true that we are much more concerned about weather — witness the reaction to this current snow storm—than we are about climate change.

Nicholas Kristof, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist of The New York Times noted that we are “much more likely to believe that there are signs that aliens have visited earth (77 percent) than that humans are causing climate change (44 percent).”  If you are looking for confirmation of a focus on aliens look no further than the February 2015 issue of Popular Science where the cover in the boldest letters possible proclaims “Have We Found ALIEN LIFE? It’s new, it’s weird, and it’s living among us.

Kristof quotes Yale economist, William Nordhaus, the author of The Climate Change stating that there is strong consensus that:  “Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere exceed those observed for at least the last 650,000 years; hurricanes will grow more intense; the Arctic will become ice free in summer; oceans will rise by 23 inches by 2100; and the global temperature will likely be 3.5 degrees to 7.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher in 2100 than in 1900.  A reader of Kristof summed up the current situation by stating “Imagine a giant asteroid on a direct collision course with Earth.  That is the equivalent of what we face now.”  The conclusion is clear: our massive snow storm pales against the larger problem of global warming.  We need to give it the attention it deserves.

I am pleased to note as a postscript The New York Times Breaking News Alert that arrived on January 30th that states:

“Most Americans Support Government Action on Climate Change, Poll Finds” 

An overwhelming majority of the American public, including nearly half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future.

Progress is being made.


The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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