It’s Groundhog Day again and I’ve a confession to make. I’ve been trying to write something on this for the past few years. I was trying for sort of imagined diary with apologies to the film of the same name.
I started out thinking of Phil Jones, or another climate luminary, reliving the day over and over, but advancing a year each time and seeing his eminence and “the Team’s” hold on the literature eroded with each year with new publications creeping in that don’t always support the settled science. He would see the fall of popular support for global warming and eventually rue his behaviour. It would have been delicious to link back to appropriate quotes from the Climategate emails, but that needed too much research.
I did think of Al Gore being forced to take refuge from a blizzard (due to The Gore Effect) in Punxsutawney, and being blocked at every turn in his attempts to leave. His travails would of course eventually end, a la Bill Murray’s character in the film, when he realised the error of his CAGW ways.
I then thought of a young student journalist, or Greenpeace activist (or a journalist who was a Greenpeace activist) travelling to an event being hosted by Al Gore and, also having to drive through Punxsutawney, being stranded due to The Gore Effect. I imagined him deciding to make the best of it and using his time to educate the people of the town on climate change – or trying to.
That worked, but needed detail. I considered having him linked in some way to Bill Murray’s character such that he witnesses the events of the Groundhog Day film as an observer, much like the eponymous characters in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead follow Hamlet’s fate. I abandoned that as much too complicated.
The journalist/climate activist thing worked and eventually I started to write something based on him coming to the town to ask people attending the the Groundhog festival about their concerns over global warming. I imagined him meeting daily a variety of the town’s inhabitants and in each case steering the subject round to climate change only to find that his new acquaintance was better versed in the subject that he was. Eventually as they educated him, his recognition of the true nature of science (it is never settled, and consensus is a political concept) would be his salvation.
Global Warming Groundhog Day – A Diary
02 Feb 2012, Punxsutawney, PA
Arrived here last night to cover the Groundhog Day celebrations. It has been such a mild winter so far* that people surely see that climate change is really something to worry about. My plan is to capture a little of the spirit of the occasion and report it from a climate perspective.
*[er.. not this year 2013/2014 – this was written last year or possibly 2012]
It is beyond me how skeptics can ignore the weight of evidence from highly respected scientists. I’m expecting to get some great quotes from people here. My idea is that those who might waiver can see just much they’d be in the minority and in talking to them maybe I can get them to think a bit more, understand what the science means.
03 02 (?!) Feb 2012, Punxsutawney, PA
Bizarre. This seems to be Groundhog Day – again. Only that I wrote a diary entry yesterday morning I’d have believed I dreamt yesterday. I must be going mad.
Yesterday did not go according to plan. I interviewed a lot of people, but getting great quotes about people’s fears of warming was difficult. Perhaps it’s not a bad thing that the blizzard kept me here yesterday – I’ve a few different approaches for today.
02 Feb 2012 #3
O God! This is Groundhog Day for the third day in a row – for me – I think. Not only am I trapped in this celebratory hell but it seems I’m not making headway with talking to people – most just deny that climate issues are a problem. Haven’t they seen An Inconvenient Truth?
02 Feb Redux, Day 4
How often do I have to relive this day? What can I do to get out of this loop? One good thing is that having conversations with the same people each day could be quite rewarding, because I’ll know what questions they are going to ask and be ready with an answer. It really surprises me that these ordinary people have such strong, misguided opinions about global warming. This time loop means I can give them different facts; I guess I have time for a bit of reading now.
This is really getting me down. I’m beginning to think the entire population of this place either doesn’t care a fig about the planet – “Climate change – Huh?” or is skeptic central. They all seem to be experts of the worst kind.
When I was talking to a few locals today and mentioned polar bears, one guy said that polar bears aren’t endangered. He told me his son lived up in Canada where the growing bear population is a problem. When I pointed out that that was just one region, he said ‘Nope’, his son’s job was polar bear research and that actually the bear population was very far from being endangered. He was a old-timer and I made the mistake of dismissing him initially, but he’d also worked up in Greenland for a while and was as sharp as a pin. I have to say he knew a lot a about Arctic history. We ended up chatting for hours and I’m trying to make notes to follow up on what he told me. I’m sure I can find published papers that will demolish his arguments next time I run into him.
You can see where I was starting to go with this. Of course our stranded climate activist runs through this loop on a daily basis. His conversations with townsfolk bring him into contact with a (comically endless) stream of ordinary people who are real experts in some area that has led them to dismiss the catastrophic aspects of global warming:
- an old farmer who remembers the dustbowl years in the 1930s
- a meteorologist
- a computer geek who is an expert in programming computer models
- a statistician (need I say more)
- a beautiful young woman who turns out to be studying for a PhD in ???
- the person who looked after the local climate network weather station who was able to explain his worries about urban heat islands.
Hearing their stories and opinions, and checking out what they say in published literature, he begins to doubt. Eventually, with his beliefs eroded and his education complete, the stranded journalist cracks. His diary records that if he ever gets to go back home he will happily destroy his signed copy of An Inconvenient Truth and work to ensure balance in climate reporting. And with that he goes to sleep. When he wakes up it is February 3rd.