Climate Change For Dummies

Back in the 1980s a very effective television commercial for cough syrup featured an actor who delivered the line “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on television.” This apparently made him an authority.

It must have worked – they switched pitchmen when the first one got in trouble for tax evasion.

We seem at times to have difficulty separating fantasy from reality. We take the word of athletes and film stars as gospel. They may know what they are talking about, having taken the time to learn about the subject they are speaking on, or they may be mal-informed idiots.

I mention this because I read a news story yesterday about actor Leonardo DiCaprio and climate change. It’s not the first time I have read his name in a story on the subject – he appears to be somewhat outspoken on the topic.

This article, written to coincide with the release of his latest film, mentioned an incident earlier this year when DiCaprio was filming said picture in Calgary, Alberta. He experienced freakish weather there that he described as “terrifying.” The implication was that it was a perfect example of global warming and climate change. Given his popularity I am sure he managed to alarm many people with his tale.

Too bad he didn’t do more homework than just memorize his lines. DiCaprio’s horrifying experience was what is known as a Chinook. Calgarians love them, but they have nothing to do with climate change. Every Canadian child learns about them in school.

I think it was when I was in third grade that I learned about Chinooks, so my memory is a little hazy. It has something to do with warm Pacific air, the Rocky Mountains and wind patterns. When a Chinook blows, Calgary gets very warm and the snow melts. Winter returns the next day. It’s been that way for a couple of hundred years. Maybe thousands for all I know – the written records don’t go back that far.

What especially annoys me about DiCaprio’s tale is that he is supposed to be a climate exchange expert of sorts. He is making a documentary on the subject. This is the man who addressed the United Nations on climate change and told them: “None of this is rhetoric, and none of it is hysteria. It is fact.

Apparently though he doesn’t know what a Chinook is when he experiences it. His preconceptions were such that the warm winds were automatically part of climate change – because he hadn’t experienced them before. Seems to me like he had a hysterical reaction, which would be hysterically funny if not for the fact people believe what he says.

The moral of the story: Just as you wouldn’t (I hope) buy a particular brand of cough syrup solely because it was recommended by some actor who portrayed a physician on television, you shouldn’t take environmental advice from someone who is best known for going down with the ship.

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