We just endured our 2,021,857th snow storm of the winter here in New York City–or least it seems like we’ve had that many. With the heavy snows and often frigid temperatures has come the reflexive, “it’s cold/snowing out, climate change is a hoax!!” nonsense. Fox News has led the “War on Climate Change” (surprised?).
Sadly, the more it snows, the more we hear climate change denial from more mainstream and/or apolitical voices, including those of some sportscasters. Then, the “reality-based”, scientific and media communities come back with the correct, logical response: a cold winter does not disprove climate change.
But it seems to GSB that the fact-based rejoinder, while of course legit, is also a bit cold and dry. To combat climate deniers, whether they be US Senators from Oklahoma or your Crazy Uncle Phil, use the tried and true sports metaphor.
(Almost) everyone gets sports analogies: They’re simple, the common language of sports is much easier to get than the sometimes complex verbiage surrounding climate change, and the talking sports tends to bring people together (unless you’re at a pub near an English football match). Yes, sometimes they’re overused, especially by certain clueless bosses, but, in some cases, the well-placed sports metaphor does the trick.
Dealing with climate change deniers can be one of those cases. Why? Well, climate change is often an uncomfortable topic to bring up, especially if you’re in a conversation with someone you think/know is a climate change denier. Even if you’re well-versed in the science behind climate change, it’s hard to connect with someone who likely doesn’t want to hear about the science (even if they claim they do). Sports, one of the true common denominators of life (a 2011 ESPN study showed that 72 percent of Americans identify as sports fans), and is something most folks will get, including climate change deniers.
So let’s use sports as a way to make our point that one cold winter in one part of the world does not at all disprove climate change. We can use any number of sports; football for starters.
This metaphor comes courtesy of Denver meteorologist Mike Nelson, in the run-up to the Super Bowl: “The climate is changing/warming due to increased greenhouse gases. However, there is a big difference between weather and climate. Weather is one play in a football game. Climate is the history of the NFL. Climate change is adding Peyton Manning to your offense (the externality that changes the status quo) (remember, this was before the Super Bowl!).
Adapting that metaphor to deal with the unusually cold winter, you could add something like, with the Super Bowl result in mind “Now Peyton Manning will throw a bad pass or two in a game–as we saw in the Super Bowl. And we can have a cold winter once in awhile. But, over time, Peyton Manning is going to win a ton of games for you and over time, the planet is warming.
You prefer baseball? Even easier! The comparison goes like this: Climate is the history of baseball from 1869, weather is one at bat. Adding steroids to baseball was analogous to humans adding massive quantities of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) to the atmosphere. The baseball result, inflated home run records, was analogous to climate change. We have a climate on steroids. The difference is that, with steroids testing in baseball, no one has threatened the Ruth/Maris record, much less the dirty McGwire/Sosa/Bonds totals. We’ve yet to take the steroids (GHGs) out of the climate system.
Sammy Sosa (l) listens as Mark McGwire (c, with glasses) testifies in Congress in 2005 about steroids use in Major League Baseball. Sosa denied using steroids; McGwire didn’t answer. Years later McGwire admitted to using steroids. (Photo Credit: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“But what about the cold weather”, you ask. Well, even during their great seasons, McGwire, Sosa and Bonds struck out! Tell THAT to Uncle Phil (who I’m sure can’t stand McGwire/Sosa/Bonds!) the next time it gets cold and/or snows.