Month: August 2009

Changing the conversation about climate change

I was recently asked to speak about the conversation around global climate change at the launch my good friend and colleague Leonie Joubert’s latest book Boiling Point. Here is the transcript of my talk.

Hi, my name is Cameron and I am responsible for Global Climate Change.

Now, there is some good news and bad. First, Leonie’s first choice speaker couldn’t make it so you’re stuck with me. The good news is, she’s adamant that I have five minutes … max.

You may not believe this, but at one stage (a long time ago) I was South Africa’s leading expert on the effects global warming would have on our marine environment. This is how it happened. My colleague and consulting partner Dr Barry Clarke, walked in and asked me what I knew about global warming. I said that I understood it had something to do with greenhouse gasses. It was probably related to human activity and, that it was going to change the world we live in – probably in ways we haven’t even been able to imagine yet.

He nodded sagely. Good, I’ve just told a client you are the leading expert and we have a report due by the end of the month.
When the panic subsided I thought about it – how hard could it be. So I headed off to the climate modellers – they after all were the ones making all the fuss about the problem. I thought let me ask them what simple, local changes we can expect and then we’ll be able to take it form there.

I asked what would happen to wind patterns. Ahh … a good question came the reply. And simply we can say that the winds will either get stronger, or they’ll get weaker…. or they may just stay the same. The same pattern happened with sea surface temperature and other critical factors that would contribute to changes in the marine environment.

We’ve come a long way since then; scientifically! ‘Journalistically’ we’ve regressed.

Take the recent work on the differences between how scientists and journalists are reporting on climate change.

In a recent survey the coverage of global warming was evaluated, here’s what they found.
50-odd percent of news stories gave roughly equal attention to the causes of global warming i.e. human induced and natural. The so called ‘debate’ between mainstream science and the sceptics.
35-odd percent emphasized human induced effects but discussed other causes
6 percent only covered alternate views choosing to ignore human induced effects and only 6-odd percent portrayed a predominant human induced theory.

Contrast this with the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) which, representing more than 2000 scientists and 100 countries has unanimously agreed that climate change is real and that humans are to blame (either wholly, or at the very least partially).

The conversation round climate change and global warming is failing. And that is what makes writers such as Leonie so important.

She’s going beyond the sceptics and looking at the real effects – the ones we can practically measure today already. And its gritty … real … worrying.

Take a look at the data on the posters dotted around … better still buy a copy of the book its excellent.

We are all in this together folks. And the sooner we start a real conversation about climate change – with our family, friends, politicians, schools, you name it – the better.

And when we start talking please lets start talking sense. After all the last thing we need on the topic of global warming is more ‘hot air.’


My name is Cameron and I am responsible for global warming.