The term “climate change” is now common place in both the environmental and the political news, steadily increasing in our awareness for the last decade or so. It therefore pays us to understand the difference between weather and climate. Climate change is impacting the lives of people all over the world, particularly farmers in some of the poorer nations and those experiencing storms that are more frequent, more severe and longer lasting.
In basic terms the difference between weather and climate is quite simple. Weather is what we experience in the present. If it is raining where we currently are, than that is what our weather is; in addition to the current temperature, wind speed and humidity. The climate for a particular location is the annual sequence of weather events, the weather experienced throughout a year or the weather pattern for the year.
By recording the annual pattern of weather events over many years we can determine what is the typical climate within an understood framework of variation. Many people could do the same automatically for the local weather, simply by living there for many years. Most older people can remember knowing older people in our childhoods that had lived in our localities all the lives, and could tell us what our weather would be just from their years of local experience. While we may now have more elders in our communities, those with that ability has shrunk. Because the norms of our yester-years have disappeared with increasing global climate change. If the weather we are currently experiencing is typical, or has been, for our location at this time of year, then we are experiencing our normal weather, which can also be referred to as our normal climatic conditions.
If the weather we are currently experiencing is atypical for this time of year, then that is a climatic abnormality. A single abnormality does not indicate climate change. A category 5 hurricane can be considered a climatic abnormality somewhere that typically experiences one every 10 years or so. If that location starts regularly experiencing them at an increasing frequency, even just to one every five years, or stops getting them at all, then that location is experiencing climate change. The annual pattern of weather events is changing, regardless of what anyone might say is causing it.
In today’s world, where international and national politics is resulting in considerable disagreement and argument over cause and responsibility for climate change, and what needs to be done about it, it is important for the citizens in democratic nations to understand the difference between weather and climate. It is those citizens that hopefully will have the power to determine who will be the decision makers in their nations during these crucial times, when the world’s political determinations may make the difference between our descendants living in an ongoing, civilized human society or struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic one based on the principle of the survival of the fittest.
Unfortunately, far too many of the rich and powerful in today’s world believe that they will be able to protect themselves and their families as long as they maintain their wealth and power-base over those they consider to be less significant than themselves; no matter what country they reside in. An attitude that is pervasive in all nations, whatever their theoretical political system; an attitude primarily based on the wealth concepts of capitalist economics. The rapidly increasing economic dominance of China readily demonstrates that capitalism is not intrinsically linked to democratic governments; that it is closer to the opposite if anything.
The difference between weather and climate is the difference between now and the future. Our recognition of this difference could be the difference between humanity’s survival and extinction. Climate change is occurring and most of the effects of that are negatively impacting humanity. Politicians and multi-national corporations need to stop playing the blame game and start working out internationally agreed ways of dealing with it. The failure of the inter-governmental meeting on climate change in Copenhagen in 2010 was a major setback. But concerned citizens everywhere, need to continue pushing their politicians and voting in those who might do something about it.