Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Friday, April 12, 2013

Climate change: it's happening here!

The "ghiacciaia" (ice storage building) of Monte Senario, not far from the town of Fiesole, Italy, as it was about a hundred years ago. It was used to store snow in winter that then was sold as ice in summer. The building is still there but, today, the winter snow that you could throw into that cavernous storage system would barely be enough for a few ice cream cones. It is a visible demonstration of the effects of climate change in this region, but many more things have changed and are changing right in front of people's eyes. The citizens and the administrators of the town of Fiesole discussed about these changes in a meeting organized on Friday 12, 2013

There is some hope, after all. Consensus is building up about climate change. Denial might not be such a terrible obstacle and we may still have a chance to do something before it is too late. It is a sensation that came to me with the meeting on climate organized today, Friday 12, 2013, by the administration of my town, Fiesole.

Not a meeting of scientists; not of activists. It was a gathering of ordinary people: farmers, employees, professionals, students, local politicians. They had come to listen to a small group of experts telling them, for once, not about remote or abstract ideas, but of the concrete reality of climate change. Of course, polar bears have their problems, poor critters, but the talk was about what's happening here; how climate change it is affecting agriculture, the economy of the town, and everyone's life.

And, for once, politicians, experts, and the public agreed on everything. They said it loud; no fear of being politically incorrect: climate change is here and now! It is not something we read in the newspapers or we hear in TV. It is in our town; it is here that things are changing, we see the change every day. 

It was a small miracle for a quiet Friday morning. Everyone could suddenly realize that they were not alone in thinking what they were thinking. Everyone had noticed the same things: that springs are drying up, waterfalls are disappearing, plants are withering, and leaves  are getting yellow in summer. Now, that's real weird: Fiesole is not California: summer, here, has always remained green. Up to a few years ago.

And no climate denialists. Had there been one around, he would have to face up real people - he would have had to show his face; he couldn't hide behind a nickname; he wouldn't be able to play the usual games. There was just no space for denial - it would have been denying reality. It would have been denying what people had been seeing with their very eyes.

A refreshing moment, an epiphany of understanding. You see, the Internet is a toxic environment. People with no faces and no names throwing sentences at each other as if they were stones. How the hell did we get caught in this idea that we can discuss anything in this way? And think we can ever agree on something? Can't happen: people with no faces can't agree on anything. We need to look at each other in the eyes - then things change.

I don't know if these meetings are the only - or even the best - way to go. But I am sure that we are not getting anywhere with the endless Internet slugging we have been engaged in, up to now. We need to look at each other in the face to understand that climate change is not only real; it is here, it is coming. If we do that, we'll see that consensus is building up about the need to do something to stop the disaster before it is too late. The next step in Fiesole will be to work on that.


I wish to thank to the administration of the town of Fiesole for organizing this meeting. In particular the vice-mayor Giancarlo Gamannossi, the mayor Fabio Incatasciato, and the Tuscan commissioner for agriculture and forestry, Gianni Salvadori. And thanks to the speakers: Toufic El Asmar (FAO), Federico Spanna (AIMAT) and Cristiano Bottone (Transition Town Italia). Finally, thanks to all those who managed to spend a whole Friday morning discussing climate change, despite the many more things they surely had to do. 

From left to right, Gianni Salvadori, regional commissioner for agriculture and forestry, Fabio Incatasciato, mayor of Fiesole and Giancarlo Gamannossi, vice-mayor; who organized the meeting.

Cristiano Bottone, of Transition Town Italy, speaking at the Fiesole meeting and asking the question, "We knew from the 1970s about climate change, how is it that we didn't do anything up to now?" 

The public at the "Basolato" hall in Fiesole. We had a nearly full house at the meeting. Not bad for a Friday morning!


  1. Thank you Ugo. This of course is great news ! And it basically confirms the fact that "seeing and experiencing is believing". Unfortunately as we all know there is a considerable "system delay" at work. We see and experience today what science and its various studies has been telling us for many years. Does "better late than never" apply?

    More time will tell but it certainly would have been much better if such a town meeting could have taken place based on what science was already saying loud and clear at least 20 years ago.

    But in any case this now seems (unsurprisingly) a worldwide phenomenon. Why? Because the varied effects of climate change are ubiquitous and therefore so are its human "seeing and experiencing is believing" effects at ground and local level.

    Below is a very recent article by Bill Mc Kibbins of describing what is now happening in the United States.

    And I would not be at all surprised if events such as the one which you describe that just took place in Fiesole at the initiative of town and regional authorities are happening in many other countries too. (and probably in other places in Italy itself too)

    One thing that comes to my own mind is this: Can these various "events and happenings" which are happening in so many places profitably be better linked and synergized for greater impact?

    The problems may manifest themselves in different ways in innumerable localities and communities (each of which can of course discuss and take some action) but clearly there also need to be both national and global actions.

    So perhaps linking up such events can be considered part of "movement building"?

    Was anything said at the meeting in Fiesole also in these respects?

    Thanks again for this "very hope-providing" post.

    Bill McKibben: 'The Fossil Fuel Resistance': Fierce, Loud and Growing

  2. The leaves of plants in pots being watered turn yellow too. It cannot be drought from climate change that causes that - it is chlorosis from air pollution. This is something that the commissioner for agriculture and forestry should know, if he doesn't already. Tropospheric ozone stunts the growth of annual agricultural crops, and has even more pernicious effects on longer-lived vegetation. When trees and other plants are weakened by ozone, they are more vulnerable to opportunistic pathogens such as insects, disease and fungus. Even before visible symptoms appear on leaves, roots are damaged making plants more vulnerable to drought and wind.

    One of the most convincing photos (of many) is from a European study site which did controlled, fumigation experiments, showing potatos grown, from left, in filtered, clean air; middle in ambient, polluted air; and right, added ozone.

    It is good to see people openly discuss climate change, which is ultimately going to render much of earth uninhabitable. If they don't also recognize that the emissions from burning fuel are destroying forests, then climate change will be vastly accelerated when they no longer absorb CO2 and the entire hydrological cycle is disrupted, leading to rapid desertification.

    more info here:

    1. Gail, forests are being lost also through beetles, fueled by warming winters in British Columbia, here is update video on the situation there:

      Beetles are coming

    2. Gail, everything is connected in the great transformation that we are seeing. Ozone, too, is an effect of human activity - we have to tell these things to people, but we need to use a lot of attention in order to motivate them and avoid scaring them into denial. We are all doing our best

  3. Climate change communication documentary (Very powerful - IMHO) is already posted online on Youtube:

    The Age of Stupid

    Must see for everybody...

  4. Great post Ugo.
    One town at a time!

    Any suggestions from the citizenry?
    More water storage?
    Any scope for civic entrepreneurship?
    Adapting (going back to) old life-skills?




Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)