March 21, 2014

My Climate Change Talk to Parents

Yesterday, I had a chance to speak at CelloPlayer's school about climate change. Not to the students, but to their parents. The title was "Climate Change and YOU".

The talk was in the morning, right after drop-off time. This is a Waldorf School, so chairs were arranged in a half-circle around the projection screen. ViolaPlayer, who is enjoying spring break this week, occupied one of those chairs (and bailed me out when my ancient laptop froze in the middle of the talk, and I nearly froze in paralysis, by getting it going again).

I started by briefly going over the greenhouse effect, the link between global warming and the carbon emissions from fossil fuels, and the various global effects, emphasizing that we are already starting to see some of these effects in our daily lives. Take, for instance, the wild weather we've been having all over the world, with extremes both in precipitation and in temperature.

Californian drought will hit all of us in the pocketbook very soon, as California is the nation's garden, producing more than 90% of nuts like almonds and walnuts, fruits like strawberries and grapes, and vegetables like tomatoes and broccoli. Imagine walking into the produce section of the local Whole Foods, that cornucopia of offerings. Now imagine taking California out of that section: the offerings would be meagre indeed. Not to mention more expensive.

While one must talk of climate justice across national and economic lines, and across gender lines, what speaks to parents is climate justice across generational lines, so I showed this pie chart compiled by Lars Boelen of the Stormglas blog. It shows in a very intuitive way that whatever fossil fuels our generation consumes, there will be that much less in the pie for our children and their children - that is, if we want to keep global warming below 2°C.

Anybody who has ever cut a pie for their family can see the inequity of this distribution.

I moved on to encouraging parents to talk about climate change with their children, for much the same reasons that we need to have the sex talk with them: to enable them to make well-informed decisions.

Because like with sex, in some sense our children already know. I've heard a fifth grader mention global warming quite casually. But like with sex, there are a whole bunch of myths floating around. To illustrate, I showed a slide with examples of various classes of myths: the "I didn't do it" myth, the "grace period" myth, the "divine intervention" myth, and the "I've no idea what I'm talking about" kind of myth.

This one got quite a reaction. ViolaPlayer thought it was so funny, the cellphone came out and a copy of the slide was sent to some friends. (I am flattered that my teenager saw fit to share something that Mom has made).

Anyway, I went on to remind parents that the global warming talk, like the sex talk, must be age appropriate, and that while we must be truthful to our children, we may not deprive them of a sense of hope.

More than that, we parents must be role models, and walk the global warming walk by doing what we can, both to reduce our own carbon footprint at home, and to push our governments (national, state, local) to put policies in place that will help keep the earth a good home for us humans. I went through a menu of options in case anyone was wondering where to start.

And then I went on a public service announcement about the many ways in which a Waldorf school education is an excellent preparation for the future, because its curriculum and philosophy imparts on its students the kind of resilience that will stand them in good stead for life on a changed planet. As a teacher has said, "This school was green before yellow met blue!"

My last slide, number 43, points to where to start learning about climate change: a book, Paul McKibben's "Eaarth"; a website, the Resources section of Global Warming Fact of the Day (I curate its Learning Center), and a TV documentary by James Cameron, "The Years of Living Dangerously", airing in multiple parts on Sundays on the Showtime channel starting on April 13, 2014. (And whoever gets that channel, to please invite me over. Since I don't have a TV).

I am pleased to report that I restrained myself and kept car talk (or "car rants", as CelloPlayer calls it) to a minimum, sticking to the climate change topic. You can't avoid talking about cars, but I only had three slides on that (and 25 other ones ready to show, in case of questions).

The audience was not large: fifteen or so (and one was ViolaPlayer, who had already heard most of it at the dinner table). But afterwards two parents who were involved with environmetal teaching in other schools wanted to know if I could help them with their efforts. A teacher asked if I'd be willing to give the talk to the faculty, during non-school hours.

A member of the school administration asked if she may use material from my talk in the school's promotional materials, as well as in the school's sustainability plans. And I handed out cards and flyers from the local chapter of Citizens' Climate Lobby.

It goes to show that it doesn't matter so much how big your audience is, as long as there are a few who will pass the word and/or are inspired to action.



You may also like:
1. How My Children's School Greened Me
2. Slash your carbon footprint



  1. Dan, the debate is quite over: CO2 emitted by humans really is the cause of global warming over the last 150 years. Saying that temperatures are headed down is dangerous wishful thinking. The sunspot idea has been thoroughly debunked here: http://skepticalscience.com/solar-activity-sunspots-global-warming.htm

  2. That is an example of how mob-think can get in the way of discovery. In the article referenced, they looked at sunspot numbers from the standpoint of change to TSI, saw no correlation with average global temperature (AGT) and stopped looking. The sunspot number time-integral makes an excellent correlation with AGT since before 1900 (as I show).

  3. Science is not "mob-think". The debate about who caused global warming is really over: We did it. Time to start doing something to prevent it from getting worse than necessary.

  4. I'll rephrase that: . . . mob-think can get in the way of science.
    Are you unaware that AGT has been flat for longer than a decade even though CO2 has continued to rise? I discovered what caused the AGT trajectory for as long as it has been measured. It's all natural and CO2 has no significant influence.

    APS has begun to question the AGW mantra

    More than 6 years ago I determined that CO2 did not cause GW and made my findings public at http://www.middlebury.net/op-ed/pangburn.html

    The method used at http://agwunveiled.blogspot.com/ allows prediction of temperatures using data up to any date. The predicted temperature anomaly trend in 2013 calculated using data to 1990 and actual sunspot numbers through 2013 was within 0.012 K of the trend calculated using data through 2013.

    All this is probably falling on deaf ears, but perhaps you will remember it sometime later this year when it becomes obvious that 2014 will be cooler than 2013.

  5. I don't buy the sunspot conjecture. Not when 197 scientific organisations worldwide hold the position that climate change has been caused by human action.

  6. CelloMom--I'm seriously impressed by your work. Please keep it up, and don't pay those silly climate trolls any attention at all. ~Nina Parker

    1. Thanks, Nina!
      I must have arrived if I'm visited by trolls.... I find it funny that he's quoting the very myth - "it hasn't warmed in 17 years" - that made it on to the slide.

  7. The on-going stream of facts (measurements and other observations) is making some of them begin to realize that they have been deceived. APS is the first organization to go public.

    Sunspot number TIME-INTEGRAL correlates.
    Sunspot number does not.


You have an opinion: Let's hear it.
(Comments are moderated; please be patient).