IPCC Working Group 2 report published

And what a fascinating report it is, too!

Not so much for the content, perhaps, as for the furore kicked up about it. I’ve just read the Summary for Policymakers and I’m working my way through the full report (2 volumes, 30 chapters, plus various ancillary bits and pieces….. it’ll keep me occupied for most of the next week, I think!).

I was expecting some kind of drama, following on from last week’s resignation by one of the lead authors (Dr Richard Tol) on the grounds that the report was “too alarmist”. Strangely, a lot of the contrarian blogs and websites appear to imput the royal plural to Dr Tol, citing “scientists” rather than “a scientist” disagreeing with the report.

Earlier today a conspiracy theorist of my acquaintance cited the report as proof that the IPCC wants to forcibly reduce world population. (How, with only 12 employees, is the IPCC supposed to achieve this bizarre aim?? CT is silent on this.)

I’m bewildered. I’ve just read the summary and it’s just a risk assessment. I’ve ploughed through 12 of 30 chapters of the full report and all I can see is discussion of previously published research, risk assessment and concern for the various vulnerable sectors of the population in vulnerable areas. The only statement I’ve seen so far that puts any kind of value judgement anywhere is a one-line comment that education can be considered a public good.

Are we reading the same report??

I don’t see anything “alarmist” in the report so far – alarming, certainly, but also positive, offering hope for strategies to adapt to the changing climate and reduce those risks.

I’m very grateful to those 12 employees and over 400 authors and contributors for their efforts in compiling the most thorough risk assessment for climate change to date. I’m looking forward to when the report for Working Group III comes out, because that’s the one on mitigation.

 

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Alternative Fuels – Wind

I thought I’d digress a little. Traditionally the UK is a maritime nation and certainly a lot of our food suppliesare imported from overseas, so in a world where emissions count and fuel costs are likely (certain, at some point!) to increase dramatically, I thought I’d say a bit about sailing ships.

Tall Ships, Lerwick

Up until the end of the 18th Century, most trade around the world was carried out by sailing ship. Coal-powered steam-vessels began to oust sail in the second half of the 19th Century, particularly amongst navies where reliable speed really mattered, but the last fleet of windjammers was still in operation, freighting wheat from Australia, guano from the Pacific and lumber from South America, well into the 1950s.

These were not small boats, nor were they traditional wooden-hulled sailing vessels. These were steel or iron-hulled, with steel cable rigging, over an acre of canvas, semi-mechanised sail-handling and enough  capacity for thousands of tonnes of cargo.

There are still a few around, mostly used as sail-training vessels these days.

Tall Ship, Lerwick

As the windjammers were finally put out of commercial operation by the development of cheap, plentiful diesel fuel, they may well become viable once more as the price of diesel increases and its availability decreases. As sailing vessels, the working carbon emissions of a windjammer would be zero (there would be some carbon cost to building the hull, but I don’t know how much. Presumably no more than building a conventional deisel-powered ship).

How long will it be before they catch on again?

I had a little google on the subject and was pleasantly surprised! Not only is the Tres Hombres, a wooden-hulled ship with 35 tonnes cargo capacity, sailing a regular trade route in the Atlantic(Europe, Atlantic Islands, USA, Caribbean), but smaller inshore boats are making a comeback in the States via projects like the Salish Sea Trading Co-operative, the Dragonfly Sail Trading Co, and the Vermont Sail Freight Project. Even on the big freight side of shipping, there are some interesting developments, like SkySails’ kite-powered assist for container vessels, which reduces fuel use, and B9’s ambitious sailing container vessel plans.

I was interested to see, too, that the speeds of these big sailing ships is not unimpressive – the commercial windjammer fleets regularly recorded 15 knots, and one even up to 21 knots, which is better than any modern yacht I’ve sailed on. Modern freighters powered by bunker fuel apparently now often average 12 knots to conserve fuel – so sail now beats steam!

All in all, a very encouraging demonstration of people taking up the climate challenge and putting old technology to a modern purpose.

Seaweed, Zanzibar and Global Trade

The Beeb’s doing well today, producing two more climate change articles this morning – one on the shrinking size of Appalachian salamanders as their mountain home warms and dries, and one on seaweed farming in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

I’m going to leave the salamanders out of the discussion – it’s an interesting story but I can’t see a prepping related angle to it, really. They are, unluckily for them, yet another piece of collateral damage in the march of climate change.

The Zanzibar seaweed farms, on the other hand, are a very useful starting point to consider the intricate global network we all depend on to varying extents – but most of us probably far more than we realise.

What possible relevance can it have to anyone in the UK that women in Zanzibar now face a drop in their incomes and independence due to a warming ocean reducing their ability to grow seaweed for commercial sale?

The BBC kindly put a little sidebar to the story. It just lists the main uses of seaweed, commercially. Toothpaste, lotions, cosmetics, medicine and food, it says.

I don’t know if Zanzibarian seaweed ends up in UK toothpaste or not, but probably toothpaste from somewhere equally distant does even if Zanzibar itself isn’t involved. I don’t use lotions and cosmetics, but plenty of people do. Medicine? I have no idea! Whenever I read the contents on a medical product they seem to contain a bewildering array of chemicals and substances that I have no knowledge about, seaweed could easily be in there under some trade-name or E-number code. Food – as far as I know, if I eat seaweed, I collect it myself off the seashore. But many people do eat seaweed, or products that contain seaweed derivatives. I certainly couldn’t say I’ve never eaten Zanzibarian seaweed in the past, hidden in something else.

I like to think of this global network of trade and interconnection as a big, highly-tensioned spider’s web. It’s intricate, far-reaching, and very dependent on everything running the way it’s supposed to. Zanzibarian seaweed farms are just one, tiny link in the network but, (to think of just a few other links I know are having trouble at the moment) when you add in Assam tea producers, Saudi wheat farmers (giving up production altogether in 2016 due to groundwater depletion), the recent (and ongoing) droughts in the USA hitting crop yields there….. how resilient is that web? How many snapped links canit cope with? Can it adapt fast enough?

What happens if it can’t?

Judging by the unexpected seaweed-links to products above, do we have any idea of the knock-on effects when any one link unravels? Some, of course, are obvious – if the harvest of maize in the USA fails, then maize prices will rise and there’ll be less maize available. Others may be so subtle that we don’t see the knock-on effects before they blind-side us.

All the more reason to push hard on the food-security front by homesteading and growing our own wherever possible!

 

 

 

A Tea Addict’s Nightmare

This morning in my usual flick over the world’s leading news stories, I spotted a worrying snippet on the BBC’s news website. Tea plantations in India are beginning to struggle with the effects of climate change, as rainfall patterns change, monsoon downpours get heavier, dry periods get longer and temperatures rise. So far, it’s only Assam tea production that’s affected – but Assam tea is half of India’s tea production, and Sri Lankan producers, who produce Ceylon tea, have confirmed that they expect problems in the future as their climate also changes. Kenya, the other major tea producer, should remain unaffected, since Kenya’s tea production apparently struggles with low temperature problems and their climate is warming.

All the same, to a hardened tea addict like me this is concerning news. Either the price of tea must rise to allow producers to adapt their infrastructure and methods, or they’ll go out of business – and then the price will rise due to less tea being available on the world market. Either way, it’s not good for the producers or the drinkers of Assam (and eventually Ceylon) tea.

Can we produce tea in the UK? The answer is yes – just. At the moment, there is a tea plantation in Cornwall (for non UK readers, the far south-west corner of the UK mainland, right out in the warm North Atlantic drift current and the warmest, mildest climate region in the country). There are a couple of plantations in South Wales, again one of the milder, warmer climate regions of the UK.

As far north as I am, there isn’t a hope of growing a subtropical plant like tea. It might be possible if I could afford a big heated greenhouse with a watering system, but that’s a lot more investment and space than I have available.

The traditional prepping answer to a forthcoming shortage is to stockpile – but although I do keep a couple of months of teabags in the store, tea has a finite lifespan in storage (about 5 years, after which the flavour goes off considerably). 5 years’ of teabags might be one answer to the anticipated price hikes, but in our household we get through about 8 pots of tea a day, which means 56 pots a week, 2,912 pots a year, or 14,560 pots in 5 years. I don’t think we’ve got enough room to store that many teabags!

Besides, what do we do when they run out?

So, I’ve decided there are a few strategies to pursue here. Firstly, increase teabag quantities in the stores (buying now before the price rises helps to buffer the cost increase). Secondly, encourage anyone I know in the southern half of the UK to consider growing tea bushes. Third, find out more about the existing UK tea companies and their products.

And while I’m thinking about it, I’ll go put the kettle on and brew another pot…..

Sceptics, Denial and Disinformation.

I’ve spent the evening mostly reading biographies – over on DeSmogblog. Now, admittedly any blog devoted to exposing climate denial has an agenda, that’s stated up front, but reading the biographies of some of the more prominent professional anthropogenic climate change deniers indicates a very sorry list of intellectual dishonesty, deliberate misinformation and outright lies. Misrepresented qualifications, verbal abuse of anyone with an opinion that doesn’t agree with their own, deliberately falsified papers, smear campaigns….

It’s not pretty. I’m not finding evidence that the most prominent anthropogenic climate change supporters engage in this sort of behaviour but I’ll keep looking. People are people, after all, so there must be some climate change supporters who aren’t saints.

I wanted to stress the “anthropogenic” element of this climate change denial because many people who don’t think that humanity has any part, or a great part, in climate change, still accept that the climate is changing. There are those who say they’re convinced of climate change but waiting to see if the evidence shows it’s human-caused or not.

I’d class these people as true sceptics (or skeptics if you prefer that spelling convention) because they still have an open mind, they’re not fixated on one idea to the exclusion of any consideration of new evidence that may or may not confirm their previous position. Scepticism is a useful, even vital, mindset for anyone interested in intellectual honesty and finding facts, rather than opinions. Any true scientist is also a sceptic, willing to change their opinion if the evidence warrants.

On the other hand, there are a number of people who are utterly fixated on their chosen idea and won’t accept any evidence other than that which supports their position, even if they have to fabricate that evidence. I’m not saying there aren’t AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) supporters who are this fixated (I’ve seen plenty of evidence of them in blog comments!)  but the professional climate change denialists, as they’re commonly known, seem to be utterly fixated on their position and somewhat unethical in their defence of it.

Interestingly I also ran across a study tonight that suggested a statistical link between denying AGW, embracing laissez-faire market economics and believing in conspiracy theories. I’m not qualified to discuss the accuracy or otherwise of the study (it was recently discussed on the Scientific American blog) but from a forum I frequent (which is a prepping forum) I can certainly see a strong correlation between the people who believe that the US government hijacked Malaysian Air MH370 and killed all the passengers, that 9/11 was an inside job by the CIA and that the USA faked the Apollo moon landings, and the people who react violently to any mention of AGW. In fact, the most usual response to any mention of AGW is that the CT crowd will label it a conspiracy theory designed to extort taxes, infringe on their personal rights and liberties, provide lifelong employment for climate scientists and probably further the aims of the New World Order and Agenda 21.

It’s an interesting correlation. No doubt in years to come, psychologists and sociologists will find fertile grounds for research here. Probably a statistician would point out that correlation is not causation (which is perfectly true) but I’m not a statistician and I’m only using my own impressions here.

I’ve also spent most of the last few days watching the same old climate change myths being pumped out when the CT people are challenged on their beliefs. Provide an alternative explanation, was the simple challenge. Prove that humans aren’t reponsible. I’ve been checking the myths against skepticalscience‘s list and so far they’ve all been on the list of mistaken beliefs that have long been refuted.

Amusingly, the list even started with no.1: climate change has happened before. Of course it has, the climate has been changing ever since there was a climate to change! That doesn’t have any relevance to the question of whether or not the current very rapid climate change is manmade, since very few people really believe that the climate has never changed at all, ever.

This was followed by a leap to no.4: there’s no consensus. Curiously, they keep trotting this one out. Research indicates that it’s now harder to find a climate scientist who doesn’t agree with AGW than to be hit by a lightning strike, followed by an asteroid (superb phrasing, coined by Kyle Hill at Scientific American).

After this, an attempt was made with no.16, the “hockey stick” was wrong. Well, it wasn’t. More than 30 separate independant studies, using a variety of methods and data, confirmed that no, Michael Mann was right all along. Current temperatures really are unparalled at any time in the past thousand years.

Having jumped down the list, the next contender was no.6, the models are unreliable. I’m not a mathematician nor a statistician, nor yet a computer whiz, so I’ll leave it to Skeptical Science to refute that one in detail. Suffice it to say, the models don’t appear unreliable at all to me.

Finally, a late double entry; an attempt (off the top of his head – very impressive…. if wrong) to show by calculation that in fact it’s an increase in cosmic radiation and an increase in solar radiation, together, which are causing climate change. That’s number 2 (it’s the sun) – and no.21 (cosmic radiation). Unfortunately for this contender (or is that “these contenders”?) both are incorrect. The sun has been showing a slight tendency to decreased output over the past 3 decades while temperature has been increasing. Cosmic radiation has a net cooling effect by seeding cloud formation, so in fact if (as was claimed) there was an increase in cosmic radiation (which has not been shown to exist) then the world should be getting cooler, not warmer.

Just for added fun, the author of this brave attempt added that he’d submit an article on the subject to a peer-reviewed journal but “of course” it wouldn’t be published because nobody will publish anything that doesn’t agree with AGW and the IPCC. This idea is apparently firmly fixed in the CT sphere, along with the equally strange ideas that you can’t get funding for anything that might disprove AGW (despite the existence of numerous organisations and think-tanks funded for that purpose – one of which even offered $10,000 per paper for contrarian views at one point! What a wonderful opportunity to get-rich-quick I missed there) and that scientists who disprove the accepted paradigm are somehow barred for life and can’t get jobs in the future.

Can you imagine the kudos, the fame, the endless opportunities to bask in glory and a lifelong ticket for untrammelled research that you’d get if you could overturn the AGW hypothesis? Now that would be something to relish, in science! To be another Galileo, another Darwin or Wallace, the next Einstein….

How come none of the contrarian papers ever manage to achieve this? How come they always seem to get picked apart by some climate scientist or other pointing out basic errors and flawed data? Could it be that (gasp) they’re… wrong?

I mean, I’d love to see AGW disproved. I’d be thrilled not to have to worry about the consequences of AGW. To think that my grandchildren will have the chance to live their lives in an ecologically rich, climate-stable world where they can enjoy the same high standard of living that I do.

Does anyone, really, want to think that their grandchildren might be contending with spreading diseases, shortage of food, trouble finding enough clean water, in the middle of a mass extinction (to be fair, the mass extinction is happening anyway – but AGW doesn’t help!) while cities drown, deserts spread, weather becomes more violent and extreme, heatwaves and droughts kill thousands and floods even more? And that’s just in the UK!

You might as well bang your head on a brick wall. All of this is so much water off a duck’s back. It’s all a Conspiracy Theory.

 

 

Allotment Update

Not leaping ahead in magnificent bounds but ticking along slowly and making steady progress!

The onions are showing (I put in 50 Troy, which are being slow, and 50 Red Baron, which are slightly more enthusiastic), and some of the forage beans and field peas (or were they field beans and forage peas??) are up, though I thought the rooks had swiped the lot before I got them netted. Still no sign of the jerusalem artichokes showing their noses, the shallots are shy and the potatoes are still lurking underground.

Five fruit trees arrived in this morning’s post; three apples (James Grieve, Keswick Codlin and Red Falstaff) and two pears (Conference and Beurre Hardy); these need a few days of gentle hardening off before I plant them on the allotment, since they were raised way down south in Norfolk by Chris Bowers nursery, Whispering Trees. Excellent job packing them, chaps, they’re in splendid condition and survived the journey just fine!

All of the fruit trees will be grown as espaliers, with the lateral branches trained along horizontal wires. This did entail a bit of additional cost since the nursery had to select suitable young trees, and they’ll need careful pruning every year, but they should be very productive and have plenty of space to crop without getting too tall for the allotment. Understandably, the rules are that fruit trees should be of moderate height, not so tall that they shade other plots.

In the potting shed, I also have 22 parsnips sown in toilet roll tubes (helps reduce root disturbance when they’re planted out, though I always slit the tubes when I plant them out to avoid them inhibiting growth or nutrient/water uptake in any way), 64 tall peas (Lord Leicester), 90 dwarf peas (Hatif d’Annonay, which will be planted out partly here as sugar-snap peas and partly on the allotment as early podding peas) and about 250 leeks (Bleu de Solaise).

Experiments in sprouting fodder for the bunnies and chooks continue, without marked success as yet. I think I have cracked the watering regime but it’s still too cold for them to grow well yet – if I brought them in the house it would probably go better but I can’t think of a safe place inside to put them at the moment.

We had a frost here two nights ago (another reason to be unhurried with the fruit trees) but the frogs have plunged ahead and laid their spawn anyway. They used to spawn in early April when we first came up to Aberdeenshire 20 years ago…. now it’s late March.

And on the climate change side, the Met Office have released a report on what we can expect from the UK climate in the next few years, which seems to boil down to “anything and everything”!

The American Association for the Advancement of Science also recently released a report, entitled What We Know. I think they’ve said it better than I could so I’ll just cherry-pick the main headings and the final paragraph:

1.  Climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now.

2.  We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.

3. The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do.

“As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do or must believe about the rising threat of climate change. But we consider it to be our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risk and cost of taking action.”

The Keeling Curve

After a busy few days dealing with a Houdini-like chicken (one of our two Light Sussex) and one of my ever-eager whippets (“It moved! Catch!!”) that’s involved re-fencing the chicken run, re-siting the big dog-run and training the dogs that if I see them look at a chicken I will shout at them (nothing can guarantee their behaviour when they think I’m not looking, but at least now they glance round to see if I’m watching before pouncing at a stray hen!) I’ve had time to catch up on the news slightly. Oh, and the chicken is fine despite her adventures with the dog.

This week, the Scripps Institute for Oceanography have released a piece of news that I find slightly depressing. On March 12th, 2014, the Keeling Curve topped 400ppm of carbon dioxide for the first time this year.

Scripps comment piece.

The Keeling Curve is a record of measurements of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Ever since Charles David Keeling began to measure atmospheric carbon dioxide from the top of Mauna Loa in 1958, the concentration of this important greenhouse gas has been recorded every day. In 1958, the concentration was 313 parts per million (ppm); it is slightly higher at night when plants are respiring oxygen (just as we animals do) and lower in the day when photosynthesis is active, turning carbon dioxide from the air into sugars in plant leaves. It increases in the spring, reaching a maximum around May, and decreases through the rest of the summer and into winter, showing how plants use carbon dioxide from the air in their annual growth cycles.

Ever since 1958, the average concentration has been rising, year by year. Last May saw carbon dioxide concentrations top 400ppm for the first time in recorded history. This year, that figure has been reached two months earlier in the year, and we should expect it to continue to rise through to May.

What does this mean?

Apart from the obvious but basically meaningless sound-bites (every breath you take now contains more CO2 than ever before!!), in immediate everyday terms, not a lot. We’re not physically capable of determining what’s in the air we breathe without complex testing gear, so the air doesn’t smell different, or feel different. As long as we still have upwards of 17% oxygen in the air we’re not about to pass out from lack of oxygen (normal air has about 20% oxygen) so really carbon dioxide concentrations aren’t going to impact on our day-to-day living.

There’s an old parable about boiling a frog: if you put a frog in a pan of boiling water, it’ll jump out. If you put a frog in a pan of cold water and bring it to the boil, the frog stays in the pan, not noticing the change in temperature until too late.

Let’s face it: most humans are, in this sense, frogs. We’ve been in the water (not personally, but you get the idea!) since before the Industrial Revolution began, when carbon dioxide concentrations are estimated to have been around 280ppm (from ice-core data). We’re not really geared to think in long-enough time-scales for planetary engineering, perhaps. The changes are gradual and take years, and suddenly the pan is bubbling and we’re still in the water, wondering what’s going on.

On a more cheerful note, today is the Vernal Equinox, the official day when spring has, definitely, sprung. That doesn’t mean we may not get wintery weather in the next few weeks, of course – last year we were snowed in for a few days at the end of March – but it does mean that the evenings are lighter and the dawn chorus is kicking off earlier. Today, the length of the day and the length of the night are equal (hence “equi nox” – equal night) and I feel as if the winter’s behind us and the year is opening up ahead.

Alaska: Not A Winter Wonderland

I ran across this story on the UC San Diego Facebook page for its Climate Change in 4 Dimensions MOOC(Massive Open Online Course) , which I’ve just completed.

I don’t know about anyone else but my mental image of Alaska in wintertime is snow and ice, blizzards, forests and tundra. When I think about sled dog racing (whatever the morality of pushing animals to their physical limits for human competitions – I’m not getting into that here), I have pretty much the same image in my mind. I’ve been up to the Cairngorm sled dog races a couple of times, out of curiosity, and fair enough Scotland’s marginal on snow even on top of the Cairngorm plateau, but surely, in Alaska, the Iditarod, the most prestigious and challenging sled-dog race in the world…. surely it’s held on snow?

Like this photo, culled from the Wiki entry on the Iditarod and taken in 2007, perhaps?

800px-Robert_Sorlie_and_Iditarod_team_near_Nome

Or this German sled-dog race, also taken from Wiki?

800px-Frauenwald,_Hundeschlittenrennen,_6

But no! Here’s some photos of this year’s Iditarod, which just finished in Nome, Alaska, in March 2014.

iditarod-5

At least there’s some snow visible. How about this one?

iditarod-4

(Both the last two photos were swiped from Mashable – they have more but my conscience doesn’t let me steal all their photos and story. Go read it and see for yourself!)

Alaska’s just had its third warmest January on record, with average temperatures nearly 15 degrees F above average and an all-time record high of 62 degrees F at Lake Clark on 27th January. The details are on a NOAA website.

All this leaves me wondering…. the poor old Polar Bears are probably doomed, but I’m now thinking huskies, malamutes, samoyeds and other sled-dog breeds might follow them? What else will we lose?

 

Denialists

I’ve just watched a fascinating discussion on a forum. It ran along the lines of:

Person A makes a comment about climate change being a problem.

Person B says he’s a geologist and he can assure the world climate change doesn’t exist.

Person C says it’s a conspiracy designed for the rich to exploit the poor and get richer.

Person D says he’s a mathematician and can make figures do anything you want so you can’t trust the IPCC figures.

I don’t get these people at all.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist – largely because I don’t think the average politician can keep the lid on a teapot, let alone a worldwide conspiracy that’s been running for the past 35 years. A conspiracy that involves thousands of climate scientists in virtually every nation on earth, all peer-reviewing each others’ work, and every government on earth, just goes beyond the realms of possibility in my book. Do people really think island nations like Tuvalu are sinking under the waves just to be awkward? Seriously?

(Did I just say 35 years? Climate change has been predicted and known about for 35 years? Yes, I really did. The JASON report on the LongTerm Impact of Carbon Dioxide on the Climate was presented to the President of the USA in 1979. You can read it here and, in fact, the basic science of carbon dioxide and its effects in the atmosphere have been well-established for a lot longer. Read up on Svante Arrhenius, or John Tyndall, if you don’t believe me. Add them into the timescale and we’re now talking about a conspiracy of thousands that’s been under our oblivious noses for a century and a half. Are we really that stupid?)

Then you have the geologist. If I want an expert opinion, I go to an expert. But I don’t go to an expert cook when I need an expert mechanic, I don’t ask the plumber to check my ingrown toenail, I don’t ask a hair-stylist what’s wrong with my dog. If I was worried about earthquakes, volcanoes, landslips or where to sink a borehole, a geologist might well be the expert I want – but when I want an expert opinion on the climate, I want to hear from a climate scientist.

As for the mathematician who reckons you can make any data set say anything…. I have to shake my head in dismay. Last I looked, two plus two had always made four. If he can make two plus two equal seven, I want to stop the planet and get off. I live in a world where when I look at the thermometer, I expect it to tell me what the temperature is and, if it says it’s hotter today than yesterday, I believe that to be a reflection of what actually happened. I don’t think I live in a world where the basic laws of nature, the laws of physics, can be adjusted to suit people’s preconceptions. As Richard Feynman once said, no matter how beautiful your theory may be, if it doesn’t agree with reality, your theory is wrong. (I may be misquoting slightly but that was the gist of it).

Yet in a way, this demonstrates the scale of the problem. These are people who will not be convinced, are not open to change and who will insist on refusing to accept that there is a problem until it’s far too late to do anything about the problem. They’re not stupid – far from it, some of these denialists have doctorates and masters degrees and other alphabet soup after their names (come to that, so do I – but not in climate science). Under normal circumstances you’d have to say they’re pretty smart people.

Under normal circumstances, they’d probably all agree that for any kind of potential threat to normal life, you should carry out a risk assessment. It’s easy to do – you draw up a little table with how likely the thing is on one side, and how bad the effects could be on another. Assign numbers to the categories – 1 for low, 3 for high, say. Then put your event into the grid where you think it fits – unlikely but bad,likely but not bad, whatever. Multiply together the two numbers that you’ve got on the sides of the table. That number is your risk factor – the higher it is, the worse the risk.

If it’s wildly unlikely and the effects would be minimal, it’s low risk. 1 x 1 = 1. It’s wildly unlikely that a rain of small fish will land on you tomorrow, and the effect of having small fish land on you is not that bad. Free fish supper, perhaps. So you don’t bother doing anything about it, like carrying a reinforced umbrella to fend them off.

If the likelihood is high but the effects are still minimal, it’s riskier. 3 x 1 = 3. The sun will probably rise tomorrow, you may get UV exposure. Sensible people take steps to mitigate the risk – slip, slap, slop, as the Australian advertising campaign slogan goes.

If the likelihood is high and the effects are severe, then the risk is extremely high. 3 x 3 =9. If you throw yourself into heavy traffic without looking, then you are very likely to get seriously hurt if not killed (which brings us to mitigation, of course. Don’t do it!).

Now, here’s the kicker. If the likelihood is low and the effects are severe, the risk is still high. 1 x 3 = 3. Even if you don‘t believe climate change is likely, the effects are so severe that you really should still consider taking action to prevent and/or mitigate it.

As for the position we’re in now, if you’re going to believe the experts (which I do, because everything they’ve predicted would happen already has happened!) then it’s an absolute certainty that climate change is happening and the effects will be severe. The risk factor is off the chart.

So how come all these clever people are refusing to even consider it?

Quite a while ago, psychologists came up with the idea of the 5 stages of grief, and once you’ve thought about these 5 stages, you start to realise that they’re not just about losing a loved one. They can also be seen in human reactions to unwelcome news, to a problem that they don’t want to face. Peak Oil, Peak Water…. climate change.

First of all, denial. There’s no problem. It’s not happening. I’m not going to look and it’ll all go away.

Secondly, anger. It’s all your fault, it’s because of this, it’s because of that.

Third stage, bargaining. If only I’d done this, or done it sooner, or…. If I do this, then please (deity of choice) fix that!

Fourth, depression. What’s the use of doing anything, it won’t work, it’s over.

Fifth, acceptance. Okay, so bad things happen. Life continues. I’m sad, but I carry on.

I can afford to stand back a bit from the denialists. I went through that thirty years ago. I still have moments of anger, mostly at other people who’re still sticking their heads in the sand, but it’s a pretty futile exercise because I can’t change their minds. They don’t want to listen, so they won’t hear, so there’s no point trying.  Deep breath, count to ten, change the subject… Bargaining won’t work – we got ourselves into this mess, it’s up to us to get out again. Or not, as the case may be. Depression? Frequently. This beautiful, wonderful, unique and glorious planet that we share with so many other species, plants, animals, bacteria, viruses…. is the world we’re turning into an inhospitable trainwreck. So, acceptance. We go on, because there is no other choice than suicide, and if all the people who see the problem suicide, then we’re effectively condemning everything else to death in the hands of the denialists. Besides, there’s a chance we can still pull this off and save some kind of future for the planet, our fellow life-forms and our grandchildren.

Moral of the story – do what you can, keep your conscience clean and the denialists, hopefully, will one day (before it’s too late) wake up and see the rising tide gauges, the rising temperatures, the increased wildfires, the droughts and floods and the way pests and diseases are spreading into new environments….

Fingers crossed.

Ermine Trude.

I apologise for the rabbit’s name, but if anyone introduces an ermine doe rabbit into my family, Trudy is the obvious name the beast will get!

Here she is, anyway – she’s 3 and a half months old, an ermine (albino) standard Rex, and she’s a little miffed at having her privacy invaded.

Trudy feeling shy.

Trudy feeling shy.

Here’s another view of her, about to push my fingers out of her territory.

Trudy.

Trudy.

So that’s both a boy and a girl rabbit safely installed….. now I just have to wait for them to grow up a little more before the fun and games begins!