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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

How to talk about climate change at a party

This is a real conversation that took place a few days ago although, of course, the words that I report here can't be exactly what we said. The protagonists are me and an acquaintance of mine. Imagine us holding glasses while at a party. 

Her: Ugo, did you hear what Trump is doing? He wants to destroy the climate data!

Me: I heard something about that.

Her. But it is awful! How can they allow him to do that? Destroying the work of the climate scientists!

Me. You know this joke about Trump? The one that goes, "What happens when Donald Trump takes Viagra?"

Her. Ugo, you keep joking all the time. But don't you work in this field? Why don't you tell me what you are really thinking about climate change?

Me (looking somber). It is a long story.

Her. Seriously, I want to know what you think.

Me. Really?

Her. Absolutely. Tell me what's going on.

Me (after having taken a deep breath). The situation is out of control. The amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are larger than any value seen in the past 10 million years and it keeps rising. The icecaps are melting, droughts are destroying agriculture in the tropical regions, extreme weather phenomena are on the rise. Temperatures are rising and the commitments to keep the increase below two degrees are insufficient. In addition, we are in the middle of a mass extinction, destroying the fertile soil, poisoning everything, running out of mineral resources, and the planet is overpopulated.

Her ....................

Me ...................

Her. I read that we'll soon be able to colonize other planets, is that true?

Me. ........

She walks away, glass in hand.


  1. "Maybe"?! Oh where is thy courage, Ugo?

    Oh, I forgot, everyone likes to be invited to a party every once in a while. Too much doom and the invitations stop.

    Perhaps you could have told her that you already have a ticket to Mars and have heard that land is really plentiful there, with great views from every balcony. Perhaps she would like to visit after you move to your Olympus Mons estate? That would keep the conversation going.

  2. You are way to kind! :D

    "Her ....................

    Me ...................

    Her. I read that we'll soon be able to colonize other planets, is that true?

    Me. xxMaybe.xx Probably not.

    She walks away, glass in hand".

    ; )


  3. I had that same conversation a while back and after I finished the big picture talk she rapidly chimed in "well I bought a Prius". Rather than explain I simply said "well good for you" and headed for the bar.

  4. Ugo,
    Maybe she can't handle, but I can. The key is learning about the topic. Having talked to more than 40 climate scientists, I'm starkly aware of what we're facing, yet I remain cautiously optimistic based on an RCP 4.5 scenario. I don't know your true feelings on the subject, but I know realism is vital.

  5. Those determined cocktail dissipatives, always rubbing shoulders and looking for opportunities for more growth, consumption, reproduction, and hierarchical standing (and going to Mars). Reality is uninhabited by humans. You are going to be very lonely in Reality.

    1. How delightfully witty, especially the two sentences at the end.

      And the use of the word 'dissipatives' is perfect given that Ugo teaches physical chemistry.

  6. But the dataaaaaaaaaaa


    Unless people are ready to 'riot for austerity' (meaning austerity for all), it's just hot air.

    1. Does it really matter what people want? Nature dictates what we will get, within the parameters of our behavior. Right now, austerity for all sounds pretty good. Afraid it will be worse than that.

      After all, as has been said so often, Nature bats last. . . and nature's BA is 1.000.

  7. so i take it you didnt pull then ugo lol. obviously your answer was not doomy enough for her taste. these doomer chicks are so hard to please, always wanting worse and worse scenarios. she would have absolutely loved the truth about the impossibility of space colonization :)

  8. Mars yes, raptured of this unworthy earth.

  9. she wanted a radical chic leftish conversation and you gave her truth. Not what she wanted.. hence she walked away puzzled..

  10. Ugo, thanks for the recent series of disclosures. They are relevant. We do seem to be in the same boat.

  11. Ugo , just in case you haven't heard............HOT EARTH DREAMS by Frank Landis is a thought provoking book on the subject of Climate change/warming and
    his conclusion seems to be that the cake is already baked. There is momentum built in making any changes to the trajectory ineffective. Everything these days in science seems to have a model and Frank's model is pretty grim. Magical thinking is the disease of our age like the plague was in the 14th century.

  12. Her ....................

    Me Still, 100 thousand years ago when a massive ice age had the earth in the grip of a super drought, the human species officially went extinct when our population dropped to approximately 600 people.
    But we survived that calamity thanks to Mitochondrial Eve and her wise intelligent prowess.
    Could you insure the survival of the human species if you became the modern Mitochondrial Eve of a remnant population ?

  13. You'll never get laid with that kind of a line. And if everybody took that approach the human species will go extinct.

    Delusion is the opium of the people.

  14. At my age it doesn't matter if I lay down alone or with a woman, I'd be asleep anyway.
    So the conversation is for entertaining thought, not youthful dalliance..

  15. Both the subtle science and the subtler humor are of course, as usual, astounding. I hope (and trust) they will continue and that this whole subtle (or non-subtle) issue will be kept alive well after Trump's viagra wears off....

  16. Here's Bill Maher's take on Mars

  17. My rejectionist take on "La Vida Es Sueño" by Calderón de la Barca translates as: "Reality Is a Deceitful Illusion." (In Clintonesque, that depends on your definition of "Reality".)

    My Dad had a delightful take on the stubborn belief that Wishing Makes It So:

    When I am upset with the way of the world and how it treats me, on a stormy night I go climb the tall hill, shake my fist at the sky and proclaim, "Listen to me! I want what I want when I want it!" Whereupon the lightning flashes and the thunder crashes and the clouds part and a deep voice rumbles, "Good! You will get what you get when you get it!"

  18. Richard WillmsenJune 5, 2018 at 10:29 AM

    You could also start by explaining why you actually support Salvini/Trump/etc, and take it from there. I'm sure she'll be very impressed.



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)