Greenhouse effect

Want to talk about climate change but don’t know what to say?

Here’s two great references.

We need to talk

Scientists have known about global warming for more than a century. They have known its effects on climate for more than half a century. Today, their knowledge is much more accurate, and their predictions are coming true.

The fossil fuel industry has known it was a major cause of dangerous climate change for decades, but its main response was to run costly campaigns to purposely mislead the public about the reality of climate change.

It’s still happening today, and many people are still unsure of the truth. Unfortunately many of those who are unsure, or overly-influenced by the fossil fuel industry, are politicians, including Australian MPs.

So those of us who know the facts need to share those facts with those who are still confused. And for that, we need to know the facts and be able to express them simply.

Avoid polarising conversations

Speaking frocefully can sometimes polarise instead of convince. Pushing well-meaning people away isn’t helpful.

So it is worth learning helpful ways to talk to people about climate change.

Know the facts

There’s a lot of information out there, and quite a bit of misinformation too. Most of us don’t want to immerse ourselves.

Climate Science 101

So it is pleasing to see this short climate science backgrounder prepared by climate scientist and communicator Dr Katharine Hayhoe: Climate Science 101.

Specifically prepared for journalists, it uses simple language and short sections to cover these topics:

  • How is global warming different from climate change?
  • What is the difference between weather and climate?
  • How do we know the Earth is warming?
  • Why is the climate changing?
  • It’s not the sun, natural cycles, or volcanoes — it’s us
  • Do scientists agree that climate change is real?
  • What are the impacts of climate change?
  • Why should we care?
  • Is it too late to change course?
  • What can we do about it?

I encourage you to take a copy (some browsers allow us to take a PDF copy of a page) or bookmark the page, and refer to it when needed.

Australian bushfires

We all know how fierce and destructive the 2019/2020 Australia bushfires were. We have surely all heard experienced firefighters say these fires were “unprecedented”. And you may have heard climate sceptics trying to debunk those observations and say the fires weren’t climate related.

It is easy to form an opinion one way or another, and interesting to ask what data is used to make claims either way.

Well now an international group of scientists (including from the universities of NSW and Oxford) have written Attribution of the Australian bushfire risk to anthropogenic climate change. (Don’t worry, it’s an easier read than that title suggests! 🙂 )

Using 4 different scientific climate models they calculate that the Fire Weather Index (FWI – a measure of the most intense fire risk, based on weather and fuel moisture) was very high in 2019. Such a high Index is more than four times more likely now than it was in 1900, because of climate change.

The 2019/20 extreme heatwave would have been 1-2 ºC less hot in 1900, and such an extreme heatwave is now 10 times more likely than back then.

So climate change is having an effect on Australian bushfires, something we’ll have to learn to live with. But the risks will continue to increase if we don’t address climate change effectively.


Climate Science 101. Katharine Hayhoe, March, 2021.

Attribution of the Australian bushfire risk to anthropogenic climate change. Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), & 16 other scientists.

Graphic: taken from the Katharine Hayhoe article, and freely available on the internet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *