There’s something off about the seasons. Don’t you feel it? Haven’t you sensed, these past few years, that things haven’t been right? Slowly, slowly, the weather’s changing as the world is shifting.
I know that sounds like paranoia. But I’ve lived in this valley for pretty much my entire life, barring a few years here and there, and I suppose I’ve become attuned to the rhythm of the seasons. When the season and the weather don’t match up, I get twitchy. I don’t like it. Everything feels wrong.
Everything has felt that way for about five years, now.
It’s not just that we’ve had more extreme weather, though we have. Tornadoes never used to come around that often — now we have more watches, warnings, and actual funnels on the ground than I can ever remember. Connecticut has established an extreme weather task force, something we didn’t need in the past, to deal with this new reality.
No, it’s not just the extremes; it’s that we keep having long stretches where the weather seems out of sync with how it was in past years. Early spring? Check. Lingering warmth in the late autumn? Yup. Summers that alternate between vicious heat, and mild coolness? Sure. Snow piling up higher than ever, or not coming at all in the winter? It’s happened.
One year like this can be dismissed. But five? Six? A decade?
At this point there’s too much real evidence out there to deny it: the climate’s changing, and we’re seeing the first effects. But what worries me is that it will take us far too long to go from just worrying about it to finally taking action and making sacrifices to ensure our New England hills, shorelines, and valleys remain livable for the next generation.
The reason I bring this up is a new study out suggesting that while New Englanders as a whole are pretty worried about climate change, they’re not actually willing to pay more money to lower our reliance on fossil fuels as energy sources.
The study shows that about three quarters of us are “somewhat concerned” or “very concerned” about climate change, but it also shows that 41 percent wouldn’t be willing to voluntarily pay more for energy to help offset new infrastructure like renewable energy plants. Eighty-three percent said they were worried about the high cost of electricity here.
The trouble is that we’re going to have to pay plenty of money thanks to climate change no matter what. A shifting climate will have all kinds of unpredictable effects, from the purely economic to agricultural to erosion and destruction of vital infrastructure.
I think we may be past the point where climate change can be prevented or even slowed, we’re just going to have to ride with it. But there are things we can do to help mitigate the effects and perhaps make them less severe in the future. Investing in clean energy is an obvious one. Building infrastructure designed to withstand extreme weather and rising sea levels in another.
That costs money. We hate spending money on things, especially when the threat seems so nebulous right now. But being stingy with climate change preparedness is a mistake.
There’s a myth about a frog in a pan of water that says the frog, if the water is turned up to boiling slowly enough, will say put and be boiled. This turns out not to be true. The frog will eventually feel pretty warm and jump out.
Frogs are a lot smarter than we are, in some ways. It’s a pity they’re being driven to extinction by human encroachment and a changing climate.
Look. I know there are plenty of other things to worry about right now. I’m worried about those things, too. One of those things is Donald Trump, who is still going around lying about climate change being a big hoax. It isn’t. If you don’t trust the data, trust your senses. Trust that little feeling of unease when it’s 70 degrees in January in Connecticut. Trust that worry about cool August rains.
And then you’re going to need to accept the fact that we have bite the bullet now and get ready for whatever the rest of the century has in store for us. We must invest heavily in renewable energy, and also build infrastructure that can stand up to the extreme weather that is coming. But above all, we must embrace the idea that climate change and its effects are everyone’s responsibility. The next generations will remember what we did, or didn’t do, and we’ll be judged accordingly.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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