Why fight global warming when the weather is so nice?

Really enjoyed this Op-Ed from Political Scientists Patrick Egan and Megan Mullin.  Good (and disturbing) stuff:

In a poll taken in January, after the country’s warmest December on record, the Pew Research Center found that climate change ranked close to last on a list of the public’s policy priorities. Why?

In a paper published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, we provide one possible explanation: For a vast majority of Americans, the weather is simply becoming more pleasant. Over the past four decades, winter temperatures have risen substantially throughout the United States, but summers have not become markedly more uncomfortable… [emphases mine]

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…

To those of us who believe climate change is the most profound challenge of our age, our discovery is both illuminating and disheartening. In previous work, we’ve shown that Americans make sense of climate change in part through their personal experience of the weather. Our new findings suggest that the weather changes caused by global warming cannot be relied on to spur the public to demand policies that address the problem. By the time the weather changes for the worse later in this century, it may be too late.

And it will change for the worse. Under all likely scenarios, seasonal trends are projected to eventually reverse: Future warming in the United States will be more severe in summer than in winter. Should greenhouse gas emissions proceed unabated, we estimate that 88 percent of Americans will be exposed to less pleasant weather at the end of this century than they are today.

Fascinating combination of science and social science.  Also, damn, that sucks!  I love pleasant weather!  I know, hedonic adaption and all that, and various research suggests I’m no happier with good weather.  But I’m pretty sure I am.  For example, I just cannot get enough of this late April weather– warm, no humidity yet, and no mosquitoes yet.  I really feel like I actually enjoy my days more.  And damn it, I guess by the time I’m an old man I’ll be hating April.  Carbon tax?

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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