How To Discuss Climate Change in Polite Company

Christmas parties' are just weeks away. Conventionally, of course, the big three topics to avoid in the interest of keeping a party "nice" are politics, sex and religion. Climate offers us a 'two-fer' transgression opportunity: an easy overlap into both religion and politics with just one remark. Given the seemingly undefeatable energy of the denialists, Al Gore's globally sustained celebrity status, and the recent shift in the US Congress, the party planets are aligned: it's time to get prepared for some climate cheer. We suggest establishing your credentials as a controversial TreeHugger as soon as the host has taken your coat. You will, of course, have worn something very hemp and attention getting. When questioned or complimented about it, declare as loudly and happily as you dare 'isn't hemp glorious.'If there's kids in the room, all adult eyes will be waiting for a plausible explanation, or looking nervously for arrival of a bouncer. Stay cool and smile. Explain how cotton is the most pesticide intensive of all crops, and needs far more water and fossil fuel to produce than does hemp. Therefore hemp is good for the climate and people's immediate health.

By this one remark you will have made yourself the target of every hippy hating bully or climate change denialist in the room. One after another they'll make their way over, stare pointedly, and ask "what about that Medieval Warming thing"? Or, "I read that it's sun spots that cause warming." Once the parade starts, you'll have to make a strategic decision. Most of the people at the party really don't want to talk seriously about anything. Not at length anyway. So you can publicly pass off their inquiries as impolite. Just declare that 'the climate science battle has already been fought, to good result and you see no reason to ruin a perfectly good Holiday occasion re-doing it, since the outcome is already known'.

Or, you can do your one-liners. The chaps over at RealClimate.org have nicely laid some out for us. Best to have a look at the full posting, which is here , but we've put a few Hors D'oeuvres to tempt you below. Be forewarned: this approach may not please your host. And if you've had more than one egg nog you'll probably blow it.

Point. Hundreds of researchers have published on the Little Ice Age and Medieval warm climates, proving that there is no scientific consensus on global warming.

CounterPoint. Natural and human-induced climate changes both exist. Studying one does not imply disbelief in the other.

Point. Human populations of Europe and India thrived during the medieval warm time, so clearly warming is good for us.

CounterPoint. No one asserts that the present-day warmth is a calamity, although perhaps some residents of Tuvalu or New Orleans might feel differently, and the Mayans may have been less than enthusiastic about the medieval climate. The projected temperature for 2100 under business-as-usual is another matter entirely, warmer than the Earth has been in millions of years.

Image credit: Venue Finders

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