Jack Tame: We fiddle as the Earth warms

By Jack Tame

Photo / iStock
Photo / iStock

They played volleyball on Christmas Day.

Topless, lunging and diving in the sand, some of the players wore sunglasses and Santa hats. The novelty! The selfies! It was as foreign and exotic as if Tauranga had enjoyed an unexpected white Christmas.

Just as many Kiwis take our first ocean swims of the summer some time around Christmas Day, New Yorkers expect snow. You've seen the movies: the ice-skating and eggnog. Most often the lakes in Central Park are freezing by the 25th.

But last year, any Home Alone-inspired fantasies of Christmas snow angels and mittens melted away in New York City. Central Park peaked at 18C. It could have almost been Suva in spring.

But actually, New York's December wasn't unique. Everywhere was special. Last year was the planet's warmest year since record-taking began. That's right. Congratulations. We've all played a part in setting history.

And though high-fives and Champagne are definitely warranted all-round, it's only slightly depressing to note that most of us contributed to the previous record as well.

The previous record in 2014 has been bumped to second place.

A climate scientist in the US worked out the odds of experiencing back-to-back record-breaking years.

In a world that isn't warming, he reckons it would happen about once every 1500 years. That would make the last back-to-back phenomena coincide with the decline of the Roman Empire. But in a warming world, the chances are much higher: one in 10.

Of course the world is warming. Everyone agrees with that.

But listen closely to the volume of climate scientists who attribute last year's scorcher to the combination of El Nino and manmade climate change. Listen to them when they despair that the Paris agreement is insufficient and that our window of opportunity to prevent disaster is closing awfully fast.

Or, you know, don't. Make like the topless guys diving around Central Park's beach volleyball courts. Enjoy the silver linings and keep your head in the sand.

After all, volleyball is so much fun. And hey, at least petrol's cheap.

- Herald on Sunday

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