Indian monsoon flooded street ARINDAM DEY/AFP/Getty Images

For Whom the Climate Bell Tolls

Those living large in temperate zones across the Global North might like to think that a warming planet is an inconvenient, costly, but ultimately manageable problem that need not affect their current standard of living. Yet, to believe that, one must be prepared to write off the rest of humanity.

BERKELEY – Scarcely had I begun my first lecture of the fall semester here at the University of California, Berkeley, when I realized that I was too hot. I desperately wanted to take off my professorial tweed jacket.

A tweed jacket is a wonderful but peculiar costume. If all you have for raw material is a sheep, it is the closest thing you can get to Gore-Tex. Not only is it perfect for a cloudy, drizzly climate, it is also surprisingly warm – wet or dry – for its weight. In the world before central heating, the wool fabrics now most commonly associated with male formal and semi-formal attire were both effective and comfortable, regardless of whether one lived in Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, London, Bristol, or Norwich.

But tweed jackets and the like also spread around the globe – a mixed blessing for which one can thank (or blame) the British Empire. For those living closer to the equator and away from the drizzle and fog of the British Isles, such garments have long been anathema. After the advent of central heating, wool attire became less practical even in temperate zones.

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