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Today in New York, nations from around the world signed an agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The goal is to bring global warming under control. A study out this week confirms that, for millions of Americans, climate change means milder winters. NPR's Christopher Joyce reports that shift might be affecting attitudes toward climate change.
CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: There's plenty of gallows humor about global warming - things like hey, vacation property in Canada is looking pretty good. Well, there's some truth to that. In fact, for most of the U.S., the hottest temperatures in July have not gone up very much - about half a degree over the past 40 years. Same for sticky humidity - not much change. But Januaries have warmed up, on average, more than four degrees. Patrick Egan at New York University says, for lots of people, that means nicer weather.
PATRICK EGAN: I live here in New York City and, you know, you've got shirtless beach volleyball games taking place on Christmas Eve in Central Park. And on Christmas Day, we had a cookout (laughter). We were all wearing shorts, you know, and so it was bizarre, and it was really unusual. It was no Currier and Ives Christmas, but it was also pleasant.
JOYCE: As they might say in N.Y., you got a problem with Santa in shorts? Egan is a political scientist, but the temperature numbers come from climate scientists. What Egan has done is calculate that about 80 percent of Americans live in places where winters are warming faster than summers.
EGAN: You know, for many Americans, they're not experiencing really hot Julies as much as they're experiencing really warm winters. That's kind of, you know, the crux of this study.
JOYCE: Egan notes that research on where people choose to live shows that they often put a premium on warmer winters. So he says, it's fair to conclude that lots of people are enjoying the change in the weather. He says that may be one reason some people are not so worried about climate change. Writing in the journal Nature, Egan says, public attitudes may change pretty fast, though, when summer-temperature increases catch up to winter ones, which scientists say will happen in several decades. In the meantime, though, rapidly warming winters do pose all sorts of problems for plants and animals, for example, that can't adapt as readily as people can. Christopher Joyce, NPR News.
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