The start of one Climate Conversation

November 17, 2013, 2:52 pm

JohnShepardClimateConversation_featured_image500pxThe impetus for this blog was a conversation I had with my wife, Carol, about climate change. Our most recent conversation was triggered by a piece on NPR’s This American Life, Hot in My Backyard,” which aired in May 2013.

The piece included a story about Nolan Doesken, Colorado’s state climatologist, grappling with the summer of 2012’s extreme weather events, including wildfire, which contributed to a neighbor’s death.  It culminates with the climatologist making his first modest public statement about climate change: If the models forecasting climate change impacts are even close to right, then the events of 2012 may become the norm.

Another story focuses on Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman voted out of office because of his position on climate change, who then sets out to engage conservatives on the issue.  He seeks to win them over by focusing on shared values, but still faces a skeptical audience among Republicans, many of whom fear challenging party orthodoxy.

The final story traces the evolution of Bill McKibben from writer and author of The End of Nature  to activist leading a movement to get universities and other large institutional investors to divest themselves of oil and gas stocks.

Carol describes herself as liberal an an environmentalist. I would add that she’s smart, well read on current events, and someone who asks tough questions on practically any issue of note. On climate change, she accepts that it’s human caused and understands that it is contributing to numerous environmental changes. But she feels that efforts to address climate change are stuck.

The piece on NPR resonated with Carol because it explored efforts to speak more directly, on a personal level, about climate change. In her opinion, she has yet to make that personal connection, coming to an understanding of how climate change affects her directly and how she should engage on the issue.

As we talked about the piece, a number of themes emerged: how to make sense of a complex issue, the challenge of absorbing and sometimes reconciling information from so many sources, and relating all of this at a personal level.  We also talked about the lag time in public acceptance around lifestyle issues that become increasingly controversial (smoking, for one, which I hope to explore in a future blog).

It was a rich conversation, as I have come to expect and relish, and will be an ongoing one that will inform my broader conversation on this blog.

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John Shepard

John Shepard

An environmentalist, John Shepard has lived with his family in Tucson, Arizona, since 1995 . His work takes him throughout the American West and Northwest Mexico, giving him a first-hand look at how climate change is impacting the region’s landscapes and communities.

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