It’s a rare day when you find a book about climate change written by a Canadian. The authors are American, mostly. Some are British or Australian. And that’s a real shame, because there’s a lot going on in Canadian politics about climate change – but you can’t read about it anywhere. The newspapers don’t report it (I hadn’t even heard of Bill C311 until I went to PowerShift). The government website certainly doesn’t report it. Currently, my only source of Canada-specific climate news is the One Blue Marble blog. We’re going into Copenhagen as the least committed and least cooperative developed nation in the world. And most Canadians don’t even know it.
That’s why it was so refreshing to read Keeping Our Cool by Andrew Weaver, a top Canadian climate modeler. He is a professor at the University of Victoria, the chief editor for the Journal of Climate, a lead author for the IPCC, and the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis. Certainly some impressive credentials. I sort of dream of doing my Master’s under him.
The book was very well-rounded for climate literature. It covered basic scientific processes (with lots of fancy graphs), the history of climate science, and policy alternatives. But my favourite chapters had to do with the media and politics – purely because they were Canada-specific.
I know all about George Bush’s inaction on climate change. But until I read Andrew Weaver’s book, I didn’t see just how blatantly Stephen Harper was carrying on the torch. I’ve read Boykoff and Boykoff’s study, which surveys American newspaper articles. But I was less aware of how the Canadian media reported climate change, apart from my local newspaper and news channel (and Rick Mercer, of course).
It was so refreshing to have a sense of what was going on at home for once, after wasting so much time trying to figure it out for myself.
My only complaint was that the book was poorly organized. It constantly switched back and forth from scientific explanations, to Canadian news, to examples of vested skeptical interests, to Canadian politics. This was probably deliberate, so that the chapters wouldn’t get monotonous, but it makes it a lot harder to find what you’re looking for later (like while writing a book review!)
Another great Canadian, military expert and geopolitical analyst Gwynne Dyer, wrote a very different book. It was probably different to anything else I’ve read about climate change. It was definitely a lot scarier.
Every alternate chapter of Climate Wars described a different future scenario, exploring how climate change would affect international relations. United States, 2029, where masses of starving immigrants from the drought-stricken Mexico lead the American government to close the southern border and arm it with barbed wire, machine guns, and land mines. Northern India, 2036, when water disputes with Pakistan lead to a nuclear conflict that destroys the Taj Mahal. China, 2042, when geoengineering gone wrong corresponds with a massive volcano, leading to a sudden (albeit temporary) drop in temperature. The Arctic, 2175, when the oceans begin to smell like rotten eggs – anyone familiar with previous mass extinctions will know why that’s not as trivial as it may sound.
Scary, scary stuff. And most of it within my lifetime. Military “scenarios” are not predictions or even projections. But they’re based on such projections, so they hold a frightening grain of plausibility.
When people claim that the consequences of turning away from fossil fuels will be worse than just letting climate change happen, tell them to read Climate Wars. It shows us just what’s at stake here.