Most of Nebraska is snow-covered and very cold today. Every county except for the Panhandle has some sort of winter weather alert, and many counties are under blizzard warnings. Earlier in the day, before the wind picked up, I went outside to see what it was like. Everything was very quiet, as few people were out and about and the snow muffled whatever sounds there were. All I heard was some birdsong. There were juncos under my feeder and in the bushes around our yard, a pair of cardinals with their feathers fluffed out for warmth, and a nuthatch walking up and down the trunk of our hackberry tree.
No doubt when people watch the news this evening and see some story about the climate conference in Copenhagen, they will remark – some jokingly and some very seriously – that there doesn’t seem to be much global warming going on. Global warming, of course, refers to the worldwide climate; we know that general warming might indeed result in colder than normal weather for some locales. This is why some people prefer the term ‘climate change’. But what we really need to keep in mind is that climate scientists look at overall trends. Just as one child with short stature doesn’t disprove the observation that American children today are taller than children were in my generation, a cold week, month, or season doesn’t disprove the observation that global temperatures are rising.
At the Copenhagen climate conference today, Michel Jarraud, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, said that so far – nine years into the decade, that is – 2000-2009 is the warmest decade on record. The BBC account of his remarks includes a video clip in which Mr. Jarraud emphasizes the importance of taking action now.
Also from today’s conference , the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, says he is optimistic that a “robust” agreement can be reached at this month’s conference. His hopeful outlook is echoed in a lovely reflection written by Sr. Joan Brown, OSF, who talks about this conference as a light of hope in the darkness this Advent season. Sr. Joan Brown, the Director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, is in Copenhagen as an observer with other people of faith, bringing a moral and spiritual presence to the talks. She is writing a series of reflections from Copenhagen, available here on the Interfaith Power and Light website.