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A week in America | 24 February 2023

By Martin Liptrot

By Martin Liptrot

This week, Martin reports on the 'weirdest week in weather' the US is experiencing and how the political parties will inevitably turn it to their advantage...

Living on the beautiful Gulf Coast of Northwest Florida, surrounded by pick-up trucks, military bases and open carry gun laws – talk of climate change is sacrilegious.

I am a communist, pinko, socialist if I suggest turning down the air conditioning or tempering the thermostat to save the planet.

But even the most hardened Fox News fact-denying viewer has to admit – this week’s weather is weird.

Between one of the warmest places in the United States, where I live, and one of the coldest places, where my daughter lives, the temperature gap will be recorded in TRIPLE DIGITS.

Yes, while arctic gusts will rattle down the man-made canyons of Sixth and Seventh Avenue in New York City, sending the wind chill to -50F, and my daughter to cover the acres of bare flesh her clubbing Instagram pics reveal, here in the south-eastern states and sub-tropical Florida we are braced for record high temperatures touching 100F.

From eastern Texas, through the Tennessee Valley to Atlanta and down to ol’ New Orleans, the mercury in the South is Rising again!

Elsewhere, not so rosy.

The attraction to me of living in the States is born from watching too much TV as a child and every show being set in a sun-kissed locale. Whether it was the hi-jinx of the Saved By The Bell kids or the short-sleeved Harley straddling heroes of CHIP’s – the sun, did indeed, always shine on TV.

So I never understood why those early settlers, arriving in New England and New York Harbor headed west but upon arriving in the frozen snow fields of Minnesota, Iowa or Nebraska, thought – “Great, this’ll do!”

Ethno-anthropologists scoff at my stupidity.

“Darling boy, they were coming from Scandinavia and central Europe, these were the conditions they were used to” they tell me.

“Isn’t that the same terrible place they are fleeing from though?” I query.

If, like me they had been aware of the wonders which await another couple of weeks west in California they would surely have pressed on past Des Moines, Lincoln and St Cloud.

But wait. Even in the Golden State things are weirder than normal.

Los Angeles TV stations are warning of… Blizzards. As much as 5ft of snow could fall in the mountains around Los Angeles, with wind gusts up to 75mph. The valley and foothills will even see snow flurries.

While snow may be rare in Southern California, the area is no stranger to extreme weather conditions. January saw a downpour which ended a years-long drought but caused flooding in an area still recovering from wild-fires which had torched thousands of acres of open land and destroyed hundreds of homes and farms.

Meteorologists from Orange County to San Jose say such extreme weather events are only likely to grow more severe as the climate changes.

No Shit, Sherlock.

But making the connection between how we live our lives and these cataclysmic events is more difficult.

Still US car manufacturers refuse to introduce the low fuel, high efficiency engines they provide in European models. The building codes shrug at the idea of minimum insolation standards, and if fuel dares to rise above $3 or $4 a gallon, call out the National Guard.

In truth, this is a wild generalisation but that’s what blogs are for.

Pew Research Center asked Americans about their views on climate change and the results were not dissimilar to elsewhere in the world.

Majority of Americans say the federal government, businesses and other actors are doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change and express support for a variety of policy approaches aimed at addressing the issue.

It also revealed Climate Change is a young-persons game – music to Greta Thunberg’s ears. The research finds members of Generation Z and Millennials are more open to some of the farther-reaching policy proposals related to climate change than the ‘you’ve never had it so good’ generation who caused all the trouble.

But it also shows that across all age groups – Boomer to Gen Z – while between 60% and 70% rate tackling climate change as the biggest issue for the nation to address, and 50% have talked about it… only 1 in 5 has taken action to do something about it.

Its only when you put specific proposals in front of poll respondents a clear divide starts to appear. Those who consider themselves Democrat or Democrat-leaning are broadly, around 9 out of 10, in favour of plans to plant more trees, provide tax-credit to carbon capture industries, tough restrictions on power generators, polluter pays taxes, and higher fuel efficiency standards for cars – that support slips to 50-50 when Republicans are polled.

And the older the Republican, the less likely to support climate change measures they are.

As a party, the Republicans have been keen to walk away from being climate deniers – they no longer talk about thousand year averages, God’s will or the benefits on retirement communities of warmer evenings.

But they also know they are heavily funded by petro-chem dollars, represent rust belt towns whose inhabitants are sceptical of any stranger turning up at the Dead Dog Saloon in a Tesla.

Not being a paid-Republican election strategist, I’m loathed to help them, but I think they will probably be wise to focus on the billions and billions of dollars being ploughed into ‘climate’ issues with little tangible return so far. They can calculate how many warships, miles of highway repair, or border wall that could have built and then scare the living heck out of folks that huge windmills will be built in their yards if Biden is elected again.

On the Democrat side, happily I will urge them to make Climate Change a central plank of their election campaign but to bring it down to community initiatives and improvements. If 90 percent of people think it’s a problem but just 1 in 5 have ever done anything about it, there is plenty of space to engage on.

Tree planting, green lungs in urban centres, public transport extension, tax breaks for buying eco-efficient vehicles, tax hits on the worst offenders – they all rally the faithful and appeal to the wavering.

And in our thoroughly modern first past the post political system, knocking your opponent about is valuable too. Dem campaigners must also link the negative impact on the climate and quality of life with the inaction of Republicans and the vested interests they hold. Remind every single congressional district and senate race voter that not one single Republican supported Climate Proposals put before Congress and that’s why there are fires and floods and blizzards.

When the weather outside is frightful, and we’ve got no place to go… now is the time to raise the issue with voters.

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Martin Liptrot

Martin Liptrot is a Public Affairs, PR and Marketing consultant working with UK, US and Global clients to try and ‘make good ideas happen’.

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