Valentine’s Day and Climate Change

Global warming will change much of our everyday lives. Even Feb. 14.

How is climate change connected with Valentine’s Day?  In many ways, as it turns out. That’s an indication of the myriad ways in which climate is entangled with our lives.  Whether it’s roses and chocolate, or courtship, nothing will remain quite the same as global temperatures go up and up.

What about climate change and romance? At least one study found that global warming would result in fewer male births.  Presumably, that shift in the sex-ratio would not be a great thing for heterosexual relationships, making it a bit harder for people to pair off.  Another study concluded that there are few children born nine months after really hot days, apparently validating Cole Porter’s classic song “It’s Too Darn Hot.” The authors predicted perhaps 100,000 fewer births per year due to climate change.  At least in the U.S., February 14 is probably too early in the year for this effect to show up, leaving plenty of room for romance to continue.

But it’s not just the sex lives of humans that are affected by warming. In 2018,  D.C. was so warm that some of the famous cherry blossoms came out in February instead of March or early April. Then the trees got hit by a cold snap in March. Although bird migrations are getting earlier, they’re having trouble coordinating with the plant life they depend on. Bees may have similar problems coordinating their spring emergence with the flowers they need. So “the birds and the bees” may also find romance goes astray due to climate change.

There are also the traditional Valentine’s Day accompaniments, roses and chocolates.  They, too, will be impacted by climate change. Like other flowers, pollination and flowering dates for roses will be affected by climate change, and in some places drier climates and water stress will make them harder to grow.  Chocolate faces more serious challenges. Cacao plants are adapted to a narrow range of habitats and may be seriously threatened by climate change.

There’s also the issue of sustainability.  Today, Valentine’s Day roses come from South America. You can’t put them on ships, obviously, or they’d be long since withered and dead by the time they arrived.  So they have to be flown in, with all the extra carbon emissions that entails.  It takes a lot of fuel to get the extra 15,000 tons of roses to the U.S. from the Andes.  Will we be able to afford those extra emissions in the future?

None of this is end-of-the-world stuff.  It wouldn’t be a catastrophe if people had sex slightly less often because of hotter weather, or if we had to substitute U.S.-grown tulips for imported roses as symbols of romance, or even if chocolate became scarce (though some might differ on the seriousness of that one).  But life would be different. These aren’t the big impacts that keep climate scientists awake at night. They’re signs, however, of just how pervasive the effects of climate change will be.

On the bright side, climate change may inspire new poetry, such as the following:

Roses were red.

Violets are blue,

The planet is hot,

And so are you.

On second thought, maybe that’s not such a happy inspiration after all.  Which raises the question: Will greeting-card verses be one more victim of climate change?  




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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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