How We Made It Through a Hot New England Summer

By Gina Snyder

It’s no wonder most of us find climate change confusing. The other day while driving to the store, I heard a radio meteorologist say that January to August in New England this year has been the hottest since 1895, when consistent record-keeping started. She went on to say that scientists don’t call this ‘climate change.’

Hmmm. But, she clarified that with an interview with a climate scientist from Cornell who said this is indeed what we can expect from climate change, but the actual weather isn’t necessarily because of climate change. “Oh dear,” I thought, “These scientists make it so hard to understand!”

Then a friend of mine told me about a sports analogy made by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist. It was the best description I have heard of how greenhouse gases lead to climate change: “It’s like weather on steroids.”

Think about how a home-run hitter is expected to have a certain number of home runs during the baseball season. Then think about the same hitter on steroids: you can expect even more home runs. Heat waves and extreme weather are similarly affected by greenhouse gases. More greenhouse gases in the atmosphere make it much more likely that we’ll have heat waves and big storms, and more thunder and lightning.

If we don’t like this picture of the future, we can take all kinds of actions.

Even though this summer has been so hot in Massachusetts that we’re using record amounts of electricity to feed our air conditioners, at least an ENERGYSTAR air conditioner uses less energy, and adding a fan to make the cool air move around will make it feel even cooler. And, when you can, using only a fan – without an air conditioner – will help.

In my home, where I have many shade trees over my house, I open the windows in the evening, and then close them in the morning when I leave. I pull the shades over windows that get afternoon sun, too. I only have a single (ENERGYSTAR) window air conditioner, and we only use that on the really hot and humid days.

One of the great benefits of living in New England – with its winter snows and spring drizzling – is that summer can be so pleasant. That means we can often get away without using AC … So on the beautiful summer days when the nights are 60-ish and the days are under 85, keep the energy bills down and the fresh air blowing. And know that you are doing a small favor to the earth.

About the author: Gina Snyder works in the Office of Environmental and Compliance Assistance at EPA New England and has been a volunteer river monitor on the Ipswich River, where she also picks up trash every time she monitors the water quality.