Cool summer? What to say when Aunt Edna asks about global warming

Mother Nature wants us off her back. Why else would she send a cool summer to the Midwest–hotbed of conservatism and home to The Heartland Institute, the leading global warming doubt tank–right when the planet’s long-term heating trend has pitched us to the cusp of disaster and our only hope for a climate bill is teetering in the Senate?
Could the mother of all mothers be conspiring to undermine support for human initiatives against climate change? She knows she’ll be rid of us eventually, but is she growing impatient?
Already global warming skeptics like John Hinderaker at Powerline, Deroy Murdock at the National Review, and my Aunt Edna have begun to leverage this cool summer against the foresight we need to keep our species–and many of our fellow species–alive for the next few centuries. It’s hard to convince people to join the fight against long-term warming when they’re donning cardigans in July. Aunt Edna is likely to offer up testimony from WGN meteorologist Tom Skilling:
What a summer! Many Chicago-area residents are shaking their heads — some pleased by the lack of heat, others disappointed at the failure of hot weather to gain a foothold here. And extremely rare midsummer lake-effect rains were pouring down on sections of La Porte County, Ind., and Berrien County, Mich., on Friday evening — just the latest meteorological twist in a summer of topsy-turvy weather across the region.
July has slipped to the coolest to date here in 42 years — its 68.7 degree average temperature running nearly 5 degrees behind the long-term (138-year) average. Friday’s 70-degree high was the first time in 53 years a July 17 temperature failed to break above 70 — but you’d have to travel back to the 64-degree high 85 years ago to find a July 17 that was cooler.
It’s that kind of talk that leads Aunt Edna to supplement her usual fusillade of emails (chain letters, kitten pictures, scary hoaxes documenting the war against the phrase “under God,” patriotic poems with animated gifs of waving flags) with a little missile like this one:
It sure is cool outside. I wonder what happened to Global warming. XO Aunt Edna
Here’s how I recommend we respond:
Dear Aunt Edna,
Great to hear from you! The concern of scientists about global warming stems from a gradual increase in the earth’s global mean surface temperature — the average of the temperature over all land and sea — over the last 150 years or so. Since 1880, the global mean surface temperature has increased by about one degree Fahrenheit. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? We might not even be able to feel a change that subtle. But in the long term, across the entire globe, it’s enough to start melting ice and altering habitats.
So even though we’re enjoying a cool summer in Chicago, it doesn’t mean much compared to the rest of the globe. Phoenix, where Aunt Florence lives, has been experiencing its hottest July ever. Across the globe the extremes tend to average out, with just this very gradual trend of global warming.
On the local level, all we can expect to see are more radical variations in temperature. And in fact, even though Chicago’s mean low temperature for July is about nine degrees below the historic mean, our mean high temperature is two degrees above it. The thermometer is going crazy!
I love you, Aunt Edna. My love to Uncle Walter.
Don’t forget that last paragraph. There is no greater tool in the arsenal against global warming than compassion–compassion for elders like Aunt Edna who, when she’s not sending us delicious klotchkes, sends us emails, and compassion for the elder of all elders, Mother Earth, as she wearies of our fungal proliferation across her once-comely surface.

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