Climate Change Toast

Climate change reportFor the last five years I have been at the centre of most breaking environment stories. So it was a little odd not to be at the launch of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. [1]

I watched my former colleagues in the background of the news reports from Stockholm, where scientists had gathered to tell the world they are more certain than ever that mankind is warming the world. [2]

I knew how they felt. The bland conference room might look terrifically dull but the information imparted by those men in grey suits is electric. [3]

You want to run screaming from the room.

“Oh my God! A Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientists just told me if we keep burning fossil fuels at this rate then the world is heading for temperature rise above 2C within 30 years. Do you know what that means? Do you?”

The sentences are almost too extreme to believe. Unless we can slow the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere then the world faces rising sea levels, floods and droughts.

Yet you are pitching to news editors who have to juggle the Syria Crisis, the Party Political conference season and Strictly Come Dancing. I remember filing stories about the end of the world from Copenhagen [4] at the same time as the expenses scandal and thinking why is no one listening?

I’m not saying I won’t make every effort to return to the centre of the fray and do my best to report on what is happening on climate change, but perhaps a little distance is good. Suddenly you can see how the rest of the world sees the problem, while eating their breakfasts:

“Hmm, interesting, temperatures have risen by 0.9C since 1900. Oh dear, there is a chance if we carry on at this rate they could rise by 4.8C. Crikey, they are considering putting mirrors in space if we can’t get this warming under control. Shit, the toast is burning!”

In a way, the best reactions on Twitter were from commentators who usually have nothing to do with climate change.

@caitlinmoran tweeted: “I’d like to rename green energy ‘the only energy that won’t run out or kill us energy’.”

This is because she is coming from the perspective of the ordinary person.

It think my concerns are the same as most people’s too. I insure my home because I need to have somewhere to live if there is a fire. I don’t smoke because I don’t want to get lung cancer. In the same way I think it is sensible to heed the scientists warning and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worse-case scenario for the world.

OK, my actions are pretty much the same as everyone else’s. I haven’t stopped eating meat or driving a car – despite years of reporting on the problem.

But I want the politicians to act. In the last five years, as well as hearing about the disaster scenarios under climate change,  I’ve seen the potential of switching to a low carbon economy. No one really noticed that the government published the latest statistics on renewable energy as the IPCC reported, showing that in the second quarter of this year the UK got 15 per cent of its electricity from wind, solar and biomass. [5]

The point of the IPCC is to inform world governments of the reality of climate change so they can make a global agreement on how to reduce greenhouse gases by 2015  [6] ie by leaving fossil fuels in the ground and investing in renewables.

The trouble is, is anyone listening? Climate change has gone mainstream and become just another news story.

But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. We have two years to prove to governments that we care. After all, it’s only when the ordinary voters speak out that things start to change – or we’re all toast.


1. IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report

2. BBC News

3. The Telegraph

4. The Telegraph


6. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Image credit


  1. GrumpyDenier says:

    I’m sorry to tell you, Louise, that without the evidence of climate sensitivity the whole hypothesis is shot.

    Quotes from AR5;

    No best estimate for equilibrium climate sensitivity can now be given because of a lack of agreement on values across assessed lines of evidence and studies.

  2. Newminster says:

    Now you’re not up against a deadline perhaps you will have the time for a little background reading which might perhaps give you a more balanced view of the climate and the extent to which it is or perhaps is not changing quite as much as you might think.
    But let’s put a few things into context first.
    There were no Nobel Peace Prize scientists at Stockholm. The Prize (which since its inception has been purely political) was awarded to the IPCC and not to any of the individual scientists who contributed to that rather dubious product normally known as AR4.
    You are, I presume, aware that the Summary for Policymakers is deliberately a political document and that the science – insofar as science has anything to do with this whole business – takes a back seat. Indeed there were many things in AR4 which bore very, very little resemblance to what had appeared in the SPM and the same applies to AR5 which no less an authority than Richard Lindzen has described as having “truly sunk to a level of hilarious incoherence”.
    Now I don’t know what your scientific qualifications are but I doubt that they can match his. His doctoral thesis was entitled ‘”Radiative and photochemical processes in strato- and mesospheric dynamics” and concerned the interactions of ozone photochemistry, radiative transfer and dynamics in the middle atmosphere’ so he would seem to have a pretty good grip on things like the extent to which CO2, for example, can be responsible for the recent warming (I would have said ‘current’ but there hasn’t been any for the last 15 years).
    Perhaps if you read a bit more widely instead of just repeating the ravings of a second-rate scientific and in many cases activist establishment intent on keeping the gravy train rolling for as long as possible you might just to understand why nobody is any longer listening to the increasingly shrill cries of “wolf” coming from the ever more desperate climate modellers whose models diverge more and more from reality with every day that passes.
    But welcome to the blogosphere, Louise. You’ll find it more fun than simply re-writing Greenpeace press releases, really you will!

    • Louise says:

      Thank you, I’m sure it is going to be stimulating! My reference to Nobel-Peace Prize winning journalists was a general reference to scientists who have told me they believe climate change is happening and is man made, such as Sir Paul Nurse of the Royal Society. I realise AR5 is approved by governments – afterall it is a government agency. But the scientists (who are independent) also have to approve any changes. It sounds like the science is more uncertain because there is more research, but overall it is building up the evidence. There is always uncertainty in science! The full report from IPCC WG1 is now available, if the summary (SPM) wasn’t enough for you: … I am always trying to find more time to do more background reading…

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