Remember the Cold Winters?

By: TANJA SREBOTNJAK, Hixon Center Director

I sometimes think back to the winters of my childhood, when, almost every year, the local lake would freeze over enough to skate on it. We also had snow on multiple occasions. It did not always last for long, but my hometown’s residents speculated mostly whether we would have a white Christmas or not.

Nowadays, however, the lake hardly freezes over and when it does, the conversations in town remark how unusually cold a winter it is. In the 1990s, and even the 2000s, we talked about how climate change might change things, but now we are seeing the changes. In fact, change has been in the making since we started to belch greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at rates that exceeded the planet’s capacity to sequester them (i.e., the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century). We just cannot ignore it any longer.

If you are in doubt about how the seasons have changed in your hometown, take a look at the New York Times’ new interactive feature on how the average number of hot days (90+ degrees Fahrenheit) have changed across the World. I bet your memories and current reality show the difference that is due largely to human-induced climate change. The projections to the year 2100 are even less pretty.

It really is high time to do something about it—in our communities and from the ground up. Solutions exist and do not have to be expensive. From planting trees to energy-retrofitting homes, from advocating for updated city codes that promote low-carbon transportation and construction, from expanding urban forests to planting local school gardens, and from aggressively pursuing climate change mitigation to fostering resilience—we can and must take action now, or the memories of summers and winters past will seem even more odd in the future.