Think Locally, Act Globally
Yes, you read the title right. It’s not a misprint. I know that the actual bumper sticker, which I used to see around California regularly, is “Think Globally, Act Locally.”
That made some sense. But when I watched CBS Sunday Morning’s August 7, 2022 segment on climate change, one of the people interviewed seemed to have the opposite view. His name is Peter Kalmus and he’s a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In the interview with Tracy Smith, he pointed to the hot summer in big parts of the United States and said:
Twenty years from now, we will look back on the summer of 2022 and we will wish that he had it this good. We will wish that it was this cool. And that’s not an exaggeration whatsoever.
But wait. He’s looking at temperatures in the United States. I just got back from my cottage in Canada, where the spring and early summer were unusually cool. And my cottage is only about 60 miles north of the U.S. border. So he seems to be “thinking locally,” that is, generalizing from weather in the United States, and acting globally, that is, advocating solutions for the world.
Moreover, he seems to be confusing climate and weather. Accept as given that the U.S. summer has been unusually warm. According to this source, the average temperature in the contiguous United States in July was 2.8 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. That’s 1.56 degrees Celsius. Some of the standard models say the earth’s temperature about 20 years from now will be about 1.5 degrees Celsius above where it has been recently. So we might look back on an unusually warm 2022 summer and say it was slightly cooler. But are we really going to notice that small difference? If some of the standard models are right (and there’s a lot of difference between models, as Steven Koonin has pointed out), the best guess about the U.S. temperature in the summer of 2042, even if we do nothing to offset global warming, is that it will be only slightly above the temperature this unusually warm summer.
So actually, Peter Kalmus is exaggerating.
By the way, if you watch the whole 8-minute CBS segment, you’ll see Sarah Birch talking about adjustments we can make to reduce global warming. Notice what form of energy she says nothing about. Hint: the word starts with “n.” (Of course, I don’t know if she didn’t mention it. She might have and CBS put that part on the cutting room floor.)