Do you want to build a snowman?

No, thank you. If you're anything like me, you had enough snow this winter. I've heard many people talk about this year's frequent and heavy snowfall from my coworkers to diners at my local coffee shop, Atwater's.


Some of my colleagues said climate change must not be happening because it snowed on the first day of spring. Others even joked that Elsa, the icy princess in the Disney movie "Frozen," must be behind the all the freezing rain.

Comments like this make me cringe because weather and climate, while related, are completely different.

As an environmental educator and a dance teacher, I work with kids of all ages. I've seen first-hand how "Frozen" has become a phenomenon. If you haven't yet been exposed to this movie, consider yourself lucky. My favorite store, Bed, Bath and Beyond, even sells toothbrushes bearing the likeness of Olaf, the movie's lovable and lopsided snowman. Last year alone there were 1.2 million Google searches for Elsa, Olaf and other "Frozen"-themed Halloween costumes.

Since the blockbuster's release in 2013, it's become the highest-grossing animated film ever produced, racking up over $1.3 billion in worldwide ticket sales and another $1 billion in merchandise.

Disney recently announced that it's making a sequel, which will make a promising opportunity even bigger. Disney could work with environmental organizations like 350.org and the Sierra Club on public service announcements featuring Elsa, Olaf and other "Frozen" characters that would discuss the difference between weather and climate.

I live In Catonsville, where I shoveled snow over 10 days between January and March. While I know that snowstorms are the result of weather patterns and that climate change causes more frequent and extreme weather events, this isn't common knowledge.

Disney could use "Frozen's" popularity to clarify the difference between weather, what's happening outside the door right now, and climate, the pattern of weather measured over decades, years and centuries.

To differentiate between weather and climate, Princess Elsa's powers could be compared to weather patterns, and Olaf the snowman could talk about climate.

If the company were to harness Elsa's ability to alter temperature and precipitation patterns — with which she produces ice, frost and snow, she could show how quickly weather changes. With the flick of her wrist, Elsa freezes the entire environment. Snow in Maryland on the first day of spring is the atmosphere responding to uneven heating of the Earth by the Sun — essentially, a flick of Mother Nature's wrist.

Bam, weather explained by Elsa.

Olaf has experienced decades of the same weather pattern, which is exactly the definition of climate. His longing for warm weather is counterproductive because it would mean that he would no longer exist. Maryland is already experiencing the impacts of human caused climate change, with increased erosion and inundation of low-lying areas along the Chesapeake Bay shoreline and coast, and increased risk for blizzards, hurricanes and other extreme weather events.

Bam, Olaf could make the case for climate change solutions so that he doesn't have to melt away in the summer.

The idea of featuring Disney characters in public service announcements isn't a novel concept. In 1944, Disney lent the image of "Bambi" to the Forest Service for its fire prevention campaign and more recently the cast of "The Little Mermaid" helped raise awareness about ocean health in conjunction with the Department of the Interior, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and NOAA.

With a "Frozen" sequel on the horizon, Elsa and Olaf could become climate change ambassadors. They could compel younger generations and their parents to make cleaner, healthier, more sustainable choices to ensure that Maryland and the United States remain prosperous and environmentally secure.


Larissa Johnson, an environmental educator and dance teacher, is a New Economy Maryland Fellow. Her email is the1_larissa@hotmail.com.