Category Archives: Climate change

Opinions on Climate Change

Moral Panics are seldom Useful


Jonathan Haidt is quick to admit that new forms of technology often spur quick reactions from adults that amount to moral panics about what awful things kids “these days” are doing.  In my youth it was television. Moral panics are seldom helpful. As Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times said,

“Adults have fretted about the damaging impacts of radio, comic books, television and even the music of Prince. That’s a reason to approach the evidence linking social media to mental health disorders with caution. But it’s not a reason to discount it. After all, unlike hysteria over rock music, concern about the psychological effects of social media is something many young people share. “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said internal Facebook research leaked by the whistle-blower Frances Haugen in 2021. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.


As well, many liberals are quick to blame evil corporations for their children’s woes as conservatives are quick to blame perverted liberals grooming of kids, but this time there is convincing data that social media giants are to blame for the steep rise in serious mental illness among America’s youth.

What we really need to do is look at the evidence dispassionately. Follow the evidence.  Jonathan Haidt says he does that. Let’s look at some more.


The times they are a changing when it comes to battery operated vehicles



Consumption of fossil fuels is one of the leading causes of climate change. If we could get released to our addiction to it that would be big.

To make the point about how quickly renewable energy is growing, Al Gore, the former vice-president of the USA  quoted the economist Rudiger Dornbusch: “Sometimes things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could.”

I heard recently that one of the car companies (I think it was Toyota) has invented a solid state battery that can power a car for more than 1,000 Km before re-charging and it only takes 15 minutes to re-charge. That will be a game changer if it happens, because EVs have a lot of advantages.


That could be tipping point on Climate change.



This can be done




 Sunset at Peggy’s Cove

David Attenborough reminded us in his testament statement that

 “The living world is essentially solar powered. The world’s plants capture 3 trillion kilowatt hours of solar energy each day. Almost 20 times the energy we need just from sun light. Imagine if we phase out of fossil fuels and run our world on the eternal energy of the natural energy of the sun too.”

Of course, we could add wind and geothermal and other unlimited sources of energy. We could transform the world. For example, Morocco used to get all of its energy from foreign oil and gas and now it gets 40% of energy from internal natural renewable sources. It might be an exporter of energy to Europe by 2015. By 2015 renewables are predicted to be the main source of power.

However instead of changing with the times, our banks, our pension plans, our business leaders, and some of our governments, like Canada are investing Bigly in fossil fuels. Canada spent billions on a gas pipeline as it promised to get off fossil fuels.

Renewables are also a smart investment for many reasons. The energy will be more affordable. It will make our cities quieter and with cleaner air. We never have to worry about running out of sunlight and wind and heat from under the ground. Added to that, we won’t be subject to extortion from undemocratic dictators like Putin or sheiks from the Middle east when we rely on renewables obtained from inside our own borders. Currently air pollution is a major health consequence of our reliance on fossil fuels when there is a better way. We can avoid many of these problems if we switch our reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy. Yet we find that difficult.

We have to change our attitudes so that we can change our ways.

Attenborough Begins to Rail


David Attenborough for most of his career did not preach or rail.  He thought he could make the best contribution to life on our planet by showing us the natural world in all of its beauty and glory, while not hiding the challenges we face. He thought we would catch on and that railing or preaching would not be productive.

Then in the last couple of years he changed his point of view. In fact, he was hired as the representative of the people for climate change and in 2018 spoke eloquently at the UN Climate Change Conference in his new role. He realized his old role was not effective enough. He pointed out that he had been extraordinarily lucky in his life and chosen profession. He also admitted he would feel awfully guilty if he saw the problems, as he had done, and then chose to ignore them. He could not do that anymore.

In his speech to the conference, referring to climate change,  he said this:

“Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. If we don’t take action the collapse of our civilizations and much of the natural world is on our horizon.”


 Attenborough also attended the meeting of the über wealthy at Davos Switzerland in 2019. There he showed a film with some horrific scenes. It showed walruses pushed to the edge of a cliff where some of them fell over, bouncing on the rocks to their violent death. The attendees had a very difficult time watching the scenes. So did I as I watched the video. Many people averted or covered their eyes. It was too painful and horrible for them to look. But looking away is not the answer. Is it?

In his television series Our Planet, he said,

We are facing the collapse of the living world the very thing that gave birth to our civilization…It is the very thing we rely upon for all of the elements of the lives we lead. No one wants this to happen. None of us can afford for it to happen. So what do we do? It’s quite straightforward. It’s been staring us in the face all along. To restore stability to our planet we must restore its biodiversity. The very thing that we’ve removed. It’s the only way out of this crisis that we’ve created. We must re-wild the world.”


I’m not sure its straight-forward, but I know it certainly is not simple.  It is our consumption that has caused this situation and that is tied to almost everything we do as a species.

The first step, as I have been saying, is to change our attitude to nature. That is the fundamental problem. We started out on the wrong foot and will never recover, unless we go back and start on the right foot.

Our Planet


In his testament statement in the PBS film Our Planet, David Attenborough pointed out something interesting, namely, that,

 “a change in atmospheric carbon was a feature of all 5 mass extinctions. In previous events it had taken volcanic activity up to 1 million years to dredge up enough carbon from within the earth to trigger a catastrophe. By burning millions of years of organic organisms all at once, it we had managed to do so in less than 200.

The amount of carbon in the atmosphere is extremely important.

 Until then the ocean had been able to absorb all of that carbon, masking our impact. It was clear to scientists that the earth was beginning to lose its balance. The ocean was no longer able to absorb all of that carbon we have been spewing into the atmosphere. As a result, the mild Holocene epoch, that was so favourable to human life,  was drawing to a close much sooner than expected.

Attenborough and his television crews, like others,  had noticed that things were changing rapidly in the Arctic. Places they could not reach before were now easily accessible. The northern pole was much different than it was. And by 2011 the reasons for the change were well established. As a result, the global temperature is 1ºC warmer than it was when David Attenborough and John Neufeld were born.  Although 1ºC does not seem like much of a change, we must remember that ‘it took less warming, 6 degrees C (10.8 degrees F), to lift the world out of the Ice Age… That’s the profundity of the change we’re talking about.” In other words, a 1 ºC global average temperature is a very big deal. Some scientific studies have said we are already on track for a 5 ºC average global temperature rise.

 We have no reason to be glib about a 1 ºC rise in global average temperature rise in my lifetime! This speed of change exceeds anything that has happened in the last 10,000 years, when the world was embedded in an Ice Age.

 In the last 40 years, the polar ice has been reduced by 40%. I have been married for more than 50 years. The fact is, as David Attenborough said, “the planet is losing its ice.” Though I have lost my attraction for ice, this is not a good thing. This is a very dangerous thing. As Attenborough said,

 “this most pristine and distant of ecosystems is headed for disaster. Our impact is now truly global.  Our impact now truly profound. Our blind assault on the planet has finally come to affect the very fundamentals of our world.”


It is time we really looked closely at our impact on the planet. That impact is incredible. And incredibly dangerous! As Attenborough said,

“We have overfished 30% of fish stocks to critical levels. We cut down over 15 billion trees each year. By damning, polluting, and over-extracting rivers and lakes we’ve reduced the fresh water populations by over 80%. We are replacing the wild with the tame. Half of the fertile land of the earth is now farmland. 70% of the mass of birds on this planet are now domestic birds, the vast majority chickens. We account for over one third of the weight of mammals on earth. A further 60% are the animals we raise to eat. The rest, from mice to whales, make up just 4%. This is now our planet, run by humankind  for humankind.  There is little left for the rest of the world.”

We are really turning this planet into “our planet.” One species–humans–is doing this. We are changing the planet in a big way. Do we know what we are doing?

Who among us thinks this makes sense?  Who among us could deny that we need—urgently need—a new attitude to nature?

The Gentle perfection of the Holocene


Until now extinction events were all created by natural forces. Over immense periods of time, we have reached our current time which scientists have call the Holocene. As David Attenborough said,


“the Holocene has been one of the most stable periods in our planet’s history. For 10,000 years the average temperature has not wavered by more than 1ºC. And for this time the great diversity of life on this planet has been attuned to this stability. Phytoplankton in the ocean and forests at the surface have helped achieve this stability by locking away carbon. Great herds have kept the plains fertile by fertilizing the soils. Mangroves and coral reefs along thousands of miles of coasts have supported species that when they mature will range into open waters. A thick belt of jungles around the earth’s equator helps to capture as much of the sun’s energy as possible adding oxygen to the earth’s air currents. And the extent of the ice at the poles has been critical, reflecting sunlight from its white surface cooling the whole earth. The biodiversity of the Holocene helped to bring stability. The entire world settled into a gentle reliable rhythm—the seasons. On the tropical plains the dry and rainy seasons would switch every year like clockwork. In Asia winds ensured the monsoons would be created on cue. In the north the temperatures would lift in March and remain high until they would sink bringing autumn. The Holocene was our Garden of Eden. It was so reliable that it gave our own species a unique opportunity. We invented farming. We learned to exploit the seasons to produce food crops. The history of all human civilization followed, each generation able to develop and progress only because the living world could be relied upon  to deliver us the conditions we needed. The pace of evolution was unlike anything to be found in the fossil record.”

At least until now.  This worked astonishingly well for millennia and humans were the prime beneficiaries of this stability.  Like all other creatures we evolved along with the system. Sadly, this did not last.

As Attenborough said,

Our intelligence changed the way in which we evolved. In the past animals had to develop some physical ability to evolve. With us, an idea could do that. And the idea could be passed from one generation to the next. We were transforming what a species could achieve.”


Attenborough thinks that he grew up at exactly the right time.  I grew up more or less the same time. I started a little later than he did.  They were halcyon times. Thanks to air travel which emerged during his life time he was one of the first to travel around the world to see exactly how life could evolve thanks to the gentle conditions brought about by the Holocene epoch. I too have been lucky to travel around the world on a short but glorious sabbatical. He and I have been lucky.

It is now beginning to become clear that these halcyon times are in danger.  And the cause is, again, us. Our activities are threatening this gentle time. There is still time for us to change course, though a lot of damage is already baked in. The worst could be avoided, but it will require a brand-new attitude to nature. Or perhaps an old attitude to nature which more of us need to adopt. I intend to blog about that.  But the key is changing our current attitude to nature which is leading us towards serious dangers.

What do water lilies have to do with this? Everything.


What are we waiting for?


Spending 3 months (this year nearly 4 months), living in the USA I get a lot of news and commentary from that country while there. Climate change is of course a hot topic (opun intended) there as it is in Canada.

We can avoid catastrophic climate change if we have the will to do it. Yet many people don’t think this affects them. Many people think this is someone else’s problem. Many think the economy is more important. Many of us don’t realize that most of the solutions to this big problem are “already in our hands.”

Added to that, these unfortunate changes are already affecting us in our homes, food, drinking water, in nature, and even in the economy which we think is so important. We are already paying a hefty price because we have delayed action for so long.  In part that is because some corporations have been spending a lot of money to confuse us and persuade us that the problem is not that bad. We have allowed corporations to do that to us.

For decades, scientists like Katherine Hayhoe, one of the leading scientists on Climate change in the US, have been warning us but we have been ignoring their sage advice and instead listening to business leaders who have been exaggerating the cost of change and minimizing the costs of doing nothing.  That advice from our business leaders has come at an enormous cost. And we are paying it already. And we will have to pay even more.

We already have solutions at hand here today as the impacts of climate change have started to affect us.  As Hayhoe, asked, “what are we waiting for?

 The UN has been warning that we are headed for temperature rises much more than 1.5ºC and to some people that doesn’t sound like it would be so bad.  Hayhoe asks us to think of it like the human body. The temperature of the climate has been as stable as the temperature of the human body throughout the life of civilization. As Hayhoe concluded,

 “If our body is running a fever of one or two degrees Celsius or three or four or five or six degrees Celsius, that is life-threatening. So we have already, thanks to the Paris Agreement, changed — reduced the amount of change that we expect in the policies that have already been adapted by at least a degree. But we still need more, because every bit of warming carries a cost with it.”


It used to be that we could not see the changes in front of us so perhaps that is why we did not act. Now we can see the changes. As Hayhoe said,

“Over the last year, at least one in three Americans were personally affected by the way that climate change is making our extreme weather more severe. We might live somewhere where sea level is rising, where hurricanes are getting stronger, where wildfires burn in greater area, where the summers are now dominated by record-breaking heat waves. Climate change is no longer a future issue. It is right here where we live. It is right now. And the time to fix it is also here now.”

Hayhoe always makes it plain, but we just don’t listen. And our failure to listen and act, in my view, is a symptom of decline.  It is hard to deny the decline of the west.


Humanity is on Thin Ice that is Melting Fast


Our future keeps getting more dire, but we keep doing nothing about it.

In March 2023 while we were relaxing in Arizona complaining about the cool wet winter we were having, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, issued one more report, in a very long series of similar reports, warning us, again, that the climate is getting worse and we are not doing anything about it.

The latest report shows that the world is very likely to miss its publicly declared goal to hold global warming to 1.5ºC or 2.7ºF. Remember that is the upper limit most of the countries of the world agreed we should not allow global temperatures to rise beyond, because the consequences would be catastrophic. If that level is exceeded world scientists have agreed our planet will pass a tipping point we will not be able to reverse. The damage will be that serious. Passing that limit will mean dangerous sea levels will be inevitable, many species will go extinct, and millions of people will suffer serious harm and die, including, of course, the poorest who will by and large suffer the most. But it won’t be just the poorest.

Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General is always bluntly eloquent on the subject. He said, we should think of it this way: “Humanity is on thin ice that is melting fast. In fact, he said,  the rise of temperatures in the last half century, roughly the time in which Christiane and I have been married, has been “the highest experienced by our world in the last 2,000 years!” Added to that, he said, “concentrations of carbon are already at their highest in the last 2,000 years… The climate time bomb is ticking.” The ice we are standing on is melting and the climate bomb is ticking.   These are 2 mixed metaphors but it would be pedantic to worry about that.  And what do we do about it? Do we treat this like the emergency it is?  Not really?  Are we stupid? Yes. Really.

Amna Nawaz the PBS co-host of Newshour invited one of my favorite climate scientists to comment. This was Katherine Hayhoe from Texas Tech University. Besides being a staunch Christian she is one of the most respected scientists on the subject in the US. She began, by saying those dramatic words by the UN Secretary-General were “completely justified.” She did not mince words either.


She reminded us that the window of opportunity the world had in which to change its activities to ensure a better future is rapidly closing, yet our emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise steadily. We are not making progress. We are still falling farther behind. She also reminded us that 1.5 degrees was not a magic turning point or threshold. It is a goal that we have set for ourselves, because we know beyond that limit things will get very bad for the human race.  But as she said, “Every little bit that the planet warms carries additional costs with it. So, how much do we need to do? As much as possible. When? As soon as possible. Why? Because we will all benefit from that action.”

That is actually pretty simple:  Every bit makes a difference and we will all benefit from doing the right thing and the sooner we do it the better off we all will be!

 Hayhoe also pointed out that which we can all see already:

We are already seeing the impacts here today in the way that climate change is loading the weather dice against us.

We know we have always had droughts and floods and hurricanes and heat waves. But, in a warming world, they’re getting stronger and more dangerous. And they’re impacting all of us. But they are particularly affecting those who are vulnerable and marginalized the most.

The warmer the world gets, the more it endangers our food supply, our water supply, the safety of our homes, our own health, our economy and supply chains, the natural environment. Every aspect of life on Earth, including our life on Earth, is at risk the warmer this planet gets.


The UN has also made it clear that we should cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, which is now less than 7 years away, and we must stop adding any more carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere entirely by 2050.

Who does not think the west is declining? Declining really is too mild a word when you  are heading toward catastrophe.

Decline of Ancient Ancestral People of the Sonoran Desert


At Casa Grande Arizona, a steel and concrete canopy was built in 1932 to protect what remained of the Great House from the elements.

As I mentioned earlier  the great puzzle is why were these magnificent structures and elaborate towns abandoned in favor of smaller communities after about 1450 C.E.

Some have speculated that some catastrophe caused the people to leave. There is evidence that the area experienced significant floods between 1300 and 1450.  Those were followed by intense periods of drought. Severe climate change in other words.

Archeologists use multiple kinds of evidence to answer such questions, or at least shed some light on the questions posed. As a result, they have been studying salt discharge on the Salt and Gila rivers, as well as the increasing soil salinity, diseases, and evidence of malnutrition. It is likely that environmental conditions changed and the Ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert (formerly Hohokam people) did what all smart people do, they adapted to changed conditions. That is how people survive. That is a lesson we moderns are beginning to experience. How will we adapt is not so certain.

The evidence does show that the extreme flooding deepened the Gila River Channel making it more difficult for canals to carry water to fields where water levels were low. Part of the canal system was abandoned while other parts were extended miles upstream to maintain proper water flows. Around 1350 C.E., the time of the Great House, a combination of factors may have triggered a breakdown of Hohokam society and undermined their leadership.

It is probable that as a result of all of these factors, the survivors of the floods and droughts abandoned large sites like Casa Grande in favor of smaller settlements along the Gila River. Today’s O’odham people believe that they are the descendants of the Hohokam people. As a result, Hohokam society never disappeared it just adapted and changed to a lifestyle that was better suited to the changed conditions. This change was likely to one more similar to their ancestors. They changed to a simpler life. Perhaps that is what we will be compelled to do.

There is a lot to be said for a simpler life.

Problems must be squarely faced


I  like listening to UN Secretary-General António Guterres who always speaks bluntly. He never holds back on his punches. recently,  he said, “We can’t confront problems unless we look them squarely in the eye. And we are looking into the eye of a Category 5 Hurricane. Our world is plagued by a perfect storm of problems.” He was referring to climate change, coronavirus, the war in Ukraine, and the possible recession that seemed to be advancing.

This is an important lesson. American conservatives have not learned it. They want the facts of racism in their country to be sugar-coated for themselves and for their children. This is an awful mistake.

In fact, in my opinion this is what it means to be woke. Confronting problems rather than evading them. That’s why so many conservatives don’t want to be woke.