Friday, August 22, 2014

Waking the Frog Before We Boil

Waking the Frog: Solutions for Our Climate Change Paralysis

By Tom Rand
ECW Press, 2014 
245 pages, $29.95

You've probably heard the story before.

A frog leaps into a pot of water that happens to be sitting 
on a stove. Being coldblooded, he lazes away, oblivious as the temperature creeps up from cold, to warm, to hot. 

Only as the water nears the boiling point does he register danger. But by then his muscles have been paralyzed by the heat.

The water boils. The frog dies in agony. End of story.

That's the gruesome metaphor that frames Canadian climate activist Tom Rand's analysis of the pot we're stewing in as a civilization thanks to climate disruption – the result of anthropogenic (we did it) global warming – and the froglike fallibilities of human psychology, our destructively “free” markets and our ineffectual political systems.

Rand chooses the expression “climate disruption” in favour of the familiar “climate change” hoping it will bypass the frog's powerful denial mechanism. “The term,” he explains, “helps circumvent the nonsense that this warming is part of a natural cycle and emphasizes our contribution to the coming changes and the speed at which they are approaching.”

Rand brings a versatile skill-set to a subject usually tackled by more specialized writers (climate scientists, environmentalists, science writers).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Heat is On (still) — and here's how scientists know it is

The following short essay was published this May in the Summer issue of The Aquarian. I've revised and adapted it for this blog, with many more hyperlinks and graphics. 

A Cold Winter in a (Still) Warming World

When you look at the big picture, there's been no “pause” in global warming

By Syd Baumel

It was Winnipeg's coldest winter since 1898. Throughout most of North America, the deep freeze broke records, made headlines and (inevitably) provided fodder for global warming doubters, deniers and disinformers.

So where did the global warming go this winter? Answer: nowhere.

While we were freezing like it's 1898, across the Atlantic Europe was enjoying one of its warmest winters on record. Witness those not-so-wintry Olympics in Sochi.

Even here in North America, it was an unusually warm winter out west – the warmest on record in California where the heat was so parching that by April the state was fully engulfed by drought. Up the road a piece, Alaska basked in its eighth warmest winter ever.

But, as the proverb goes, when a whole bunch of blind men examine an elephant, a tusk, a trunk and a big floppy ear at a time, it can lead to a comically distorted picture of the whole.