From weather chat to climate change

(image via MGN)
(image via MGN)

Itís a cliche, but itís true: We Midwesterners sure like talking about the weather.

And why not? Itís not only the constant variation (run out of things to say about humidity? Wait a week and weíll be talking about how dry itís been), and vital importance to our rural economy, the subject also plays to our strengths.

Chatting about weather levels the field. Anyone can play. You can ante up with wisdom from your grandparents, share what you heard on the Weather Channel or just make your own observations (ďBoy, itís like an oven out thereĒ). You can spout predictions without being confrontational and end disagreements with a smile and a shrug. Weíll get what we get, after all. You canít control the weather.

And I guess thatís why what should be a breezy transition to talking climate change instead has been so fraught and frustrating: So many of those old rules donít apply.

Grandpaís wisdom doesnít help understand the global change that weíre experiencing; our up-close experiences with oddball weather events can blind us to the larger patterns. Looking at climate ó the long-term, broad-strokes patterns as opposed to weather conditions from season to season or week to week ó destroys that level playing field. Everybodyís input isnít equal. We canít all just shake hands while exchanging old peacekeeping adages about Mother Nature and agree to disagree.

That doesnít mean we canít talk about climate change unless weíve got a briefcase full of scientific degrees. In fact, it means we should. But first, weíve got to do a little homework. Hereís one opportunity that crossed my desk:

Throughout this month, Cedar Rapids Climate Advocates and Christ Episcopal Church are sponsoring free readings and discussions of different parts of the current climate change debate, using Sen. Rob Hoggís recently published book as a guide. The first event, ďPolitics and Climate,Ē will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Blue Strawberry, 118 Second St. SE, Cedar Rapids. For information, contact Charles Crawley at or Cheryl Valenta at

As Iowans, we should be naturals at discussing climate change. Who loves to talk about this stuff more than we do? But itís too important for idle chatter. It demands that we get a firmer understanding of what scientists know, and donít know, about where weíre heading and how to soften the blow.

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