Much of the United States spent the past week shivering through the coldest few days of the last decade. With temperatures well into the negatives and piercing wind chills forcing the mercury to record lows, Americans headed for the hills (colloquially, of course, because a real hill would just be more exposed).
As with any minor inconvenience, the American media reported on the cold snap with its characteristic talent for repetition (ad nauseum) and sensationalism. The storm, named Hercules (of all names), received near constant coverage on all of the 24-hour news stations.
Things took a remarkable turn when Fox News correspondents, and some Republican politicians, began suggest the cold snap disproved the well-researched and documented trend of global warming. I had trouble finding clips of those particular moments on the Fox News website so I have resorted to this montage made by the Daily Show.
One commentator exclaims, “All this snow and still cries over global warming!” with a decidedly smug smile. Another predicts, that “global warming, a phrase we are all familiar with… is going to die this year… given the kind of incredible cold weather we’ve had this weekend.”
I, like many others, was disturbed to hear this sort of rhetoric from an organization with such a huge audience. Studying and understanding climate change has been an integral part my education and professional career. Currently, I am writing a thesis on pastoral herders in the Sahel, a region that has been drastically affected by global climatic change. Annual rains south of the Sahara have slowly declined over the last two or three decades, expanding Africa’s great desert into more heavily populated areas. Similarly, droughts of increasing frequency and severity have plagued the region. Whether part of a longer term trend, or a short term patch of poor weather, the idea that some sort of climatic change is occurring seems fairly certain. These changes have terrible implication for herders in the Sahel, as well as their agriculturalist neighbors.
Lake Chad is the Sahel’s grimmest tale of climate change. Since the 1960’s the lake, a crucial source of water for the four Sahelian nations that border it, has slowly diminished to about a 20th of its original size.
Such shocking changes are hard to ignore. Yet somehow the people at Fox News have managed to do just that.
I was glad to hear many of my development intern peers and classmates were equally distraught this trend of climate change denial in the US. My peers, with their different regional concentrations, were rich in global examples of climate change. I have linked a few below:
- Island nations like the Maldives in the Indian and Pacific Oceans disappearing under rising ocean waters.
- Rising sea levels affecting coastal regions of Mozambique.
- Melting permafrost in Siberia and across the North portions of Canada, releasing high concentrations of green house gases.
What we realized collectively is that as internationally focused development students, researchers, and interns we sometimes forget to give the home-front its due attention. While we have come to admire those in our given regions of interest abroad who lobby for better governance, responsible economic management, and empirically proven policies, we have shirked our own responsibility to participate in domestic affairs.
Further, the experiences we have abroad give us a unique capacity (not to mention responsibility) to inform social policies. By bringing in experiences from across the globe we expand the sample size in humankind’s constant fleshing out of ideas, policies, and projects. Our insights can be valuable because our perspectives are different.