What do you think about how bad climate change is?

Turns out you think it is very bad indeed. The pre-Christmas survey shows that almost all of you think it is either Bad or Terrible. There are a couple of doubters, and the survey didn’t ask this question of those who didn’t think climate change is man-made in the first place. So, basically, if you think climate change is man-made, you think it is bad.

Team JB Survey - How BadThis is interesting because it means that to persuade someone that climate change is a big problem, all you need to do is to persuade them that it is real. If you are representative. I may be over-generalising. Seems logical though.

I think it is significant that those that are less certain of the reality of man-made climate change are also less concerned about how bad it could be.

Team JB Survey - Certainty vs ScaleSo, what is it that makes someone feel that climate change is terrible, rather than merely bad? The language I used in the survey may be significant. I said that Bad meant more extreme weather, sea-level rise and eco-systems under threat, whereas I used more emotive language to describe Terrible, in terms of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. I suspect that those who marked it as Terrible, including myself, are more emotionally engaged with the issue.

For me, it is the unease I described in my video post that creates that emotion. We are moving out of the natural climactic cycles into something new and unknown, and we are doing so very quickly. The graph below of carbon dioxide levels illustrates the point. When I first saw this graph, I thought the bit at the right had been squished. It hasn’t.

CO2_concentration_800k_years_and_to_2100Why did you put Terrible, or Bad? Or something else?

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

PS – should I keep calling myself that?



It’s been a highly hectic couple of days. I’ve taken on an urgent job with the business, which kept me away from this blog yesterday. And last night saw the second Ashlyns Lecture. We were very lucky that the lucid and stirring Polly Higgins came to Berkhamsted. She may just have started something.

After setting up a vague horse-shoe of blue plastic chairs at Ashlyns School in the early evening, delivering my co-chair-re-arranger Trevor home, rushing around printing off the list of pre-bookees, I got back to the venue to find our star speaker was already enjoying a plate of the most delicious vegetarian food I’ve ever tasted. I didn’t eat Polly’s, no, I had a plate of my own. Thank you Parul, look forward to seeing you on Masterchef one day.

Doors opened at 7pm, and the steady stream started from the off. Food was bought, and it seemed that every other person who arrived hadn’t pre-booked. We’d not put enough chairs out. From pre-bookings of 77, we ended up with a very full hall of 130 enthusiastic folk, waiting to be inspired. They were very much not disappointed.
Polly TalkAfter an introduction from our very own Emma, Polly took to the floor. Without notes or slides, she let her trained barrister skills, natural charisma and deep understanding of her subject flood forward and wash over us. We surfed the rolling waves of her talk as she expertly balanced between emotion and logic.

We heard how, while she was overseeing an injury claim in the courts, she realised that outside there was a neglected and huge victim, laying seemingly passively outside her window. She decided to become the lawyer for the Earth.

That lead her to endeavour to introduce Ecocide as an international crime against Peace, within the Rome statute alongside genocide and war-crimes. It lead her to find out that Ecocide, the intentional destruction of eco-systems, was originally written into those very same international laws when they were first considered in 1972. It lead her to the incredible realisation that they had been dropped suddenly, with unpublicised and secretive discussions at the UN. Three countries had successfully lobbied to have the laws removed in 1996.

Those countries? The United States of America. The Netherlands. And the United Kingdom. In 1996. Under Sir John Major as Prime Minister.

The law can and should be passed. There are 121 countries signed up to make it so. All that is needed for it to be tabled is for one of those countries to put it forward. To do so, they need a mandate from their people.

So it is now our job to create that mandate.

Stroud recently formed Stroud Wants Ecocide Law. Other something like that. Spells SWEL. So we may form B-WEL. Berkhamsted Wants Ecocide Law.

If in 1996 Ecocide had been made a crime, as it rightfully should, the rainforests of the world would now be expanding, the tar-sands in Canada would be a pipe-dream and climate change mitigation would be well under way. Without it? What do you think?

It can happen by 2020. It could happen sooner.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

The good about climate change

Climate change isn’t all bad.  Depending on where you do your reading, you may only see the downside.  But there are upsides.  This post examines the three main benefits – warmer winters, longer growing seasons and more fossil fuels.

I’m writing this post because of the reader survey from the end of last year.  One of you didn’t feel able to answer the question on how bad is climate change because you didn’t know about the upsides.

There are three main benefits as far as I can see.  The first two are only benefits in the short-term; the last will keep on giving for centuries to come.

Firstly, at the moment in most of the developed world, there are more weather related deaths in the winter than in the summer.  A warmer world will mean that the average winter will be milder than before, and so cold related deaths will decrease in the short-term and in higher latitudes, according to the IPCC.  There are some important caveats, of course.  Excess winter deaths are higher in milder countries at the moment, so maybe it could go the other way.  And climate change brings with it much more variability, such as the chilling vortex over the US at the moment, which could stretch our ability to cope.  By the way, the frozen US was caused by a very weak and wobbly jet stream allowing a chunk of polar air to descend deep into the south, all as a result of a warmer world.  And of course the lower latitudes are stuffed.Too much to eat

The second benefit is longer growing seasons, again for the higher latitudes.  That’s the UK, by the way.  On average, spring will start sooner and summer will be longer over the next few decades, so we will be able to grow more food.  In fact, in the short-term, there should be an overall global increase in food productivity, again according to the IPCC.  Longer term it goes the other way, of course, and the lower latitudes are again the losers throughout.  And in some years, due to flooded summers or droughts, we will have to wait for the next year to eat.

The final benefit I’d like to talk about is the receding ice-sheets exposing more land and sea, for food growing, travel and of course for fossil fuel extraction.  Greenland, here we come, and we can start drilling in the Arctic.  Like a smoking amputee reaching for another packet of cigarettes because of their unrelenting addiction.

So, all in all, in the next few decades, the richer people in the more northerly or southerly parts of the developed world will probably benefit from some domestic improvements.  Will we be better off in that time, as the rest of the world withers away?

And will we be able to enjoy our spoils, with the knowledge that we have pushed the world out of its natural cycles into something new and unknown, with the inevitability that it will be coming to get us when we are old and our children are struggling on?

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke

If it’s not us, what is it?

A few weeks ago, I put a survey up on this website to find out what you think about climate change.  85% of you think recent changes are predominantly man-made, but a small number thought it was definitely, 100% natural.

For those who said recent climate change is natural, the survey took a different path.  There was not much point asking people how bad they think climate change is if they don’t think man has anything to do with it.

I asked what you thought the cause of climate change was, if it wasn’t humans.

Given the options of “Nothing – the globe is not warming”, “Sun-spots”, “Volcanoes”, “Natural cycles other than the above”, “No-one knows for sure” and “Other”, every single one went for “Natural cycles other than above”.

Well, that’s not strictly true, one person went for Other – “Natural cycles, including Sun-spots, Volcanoes and gravitational shifts within the earth core”.

They were all very certain about it not being humans.  If you are reading this, please do contact me or return my email and let me know why makes you so certain.

The survey effectively ended there for these people.  There is nothing more to say.

For the rest of you, though, there was much more to find out.  As concluded by a recent RSA report, it is not the small minority of deniers that need to be convinced to act, it is those who do accept man-made global warming, but choose not to do anything about it.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke