WEAVER, Andrew

Author Tags: Environment

While teaching at the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, Gordon Head Complex, Andrew J. Weaver wrote Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World (Penguin, 2008). It dispels obfuscation and charts media mood swings. [See review below]

For the general reader, Weaver also co-edited Hard Choices: Climate Change in Canada (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2004), an examination Canadian weather and climate, Canada's response to the Kyoto Protocol and the adequacy of the Kyoto guidelines. It its publication, Weaver was Canada Research Chair in Atmospheric Science in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria.

In January of 2012, following Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Accord at the Durban Conference on Climate Change in December, Orca Book Publishers sent a copy of Weaver’s book, Generation Us—The Challenge of Global Warming, to all 308 Members of Parliament.

Generation Us explains the phenomenon of global warming, outlines the threat it presents to future generations and offers a path toward solutions to the problem.

“We’re concerned that too many of our politicians see climate change as a political problem, not the threat that it is to the very survival of future generations,” said Orca’s publisher Andrew Wooldridge. “Hopefully the book will provide a more complete analysis of the problem for at least some of our elected representatives.”

As the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis at the University of Victoria, Weaver was a team member of the Nobel Peace Prize–winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Now more than ever it’s become critically important that society—and especially our elected leaders—accept responsibility for global warming,” Dr. Weaver said. “We’ve created the problem; we must now be part of the solution.”

Generation Us—The Challenge of Global Warming is published by Raven Books, an imprint of Orca Book Publishers, and is part of the Rapid Reads series, which features both fiction and nonfiction in short, high-interest, easy-read formats

[BCBW 2012] "Environment"

Keeping Our Cool

from Martin Twigg
Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World by Andrew Weaver (Penguin $34)

Much like the denial industry that emerged in defense of Big Tobacco, there has been a concerted effort on behalf of lobbyists and politicians to spread uncertainty about climate change.

One of the chief architects of this obfuscation was Frank Luntz, a conservative spin doctor who authored a now infamous memo for the Republican Party outlining a political strategy on the environment. “The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed,” Luntz wrote. “There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science.”

Urging republicans to “be even more active in recruiting experts who are sympathetic to your view,” Luntz played an integral role in the Bush administration’s attempts to manipulate public opinion on science and the environment, perpetuating a false impression that the scientific community was still largely divided on the issue of climate change.

If any doubt remains today, Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World by Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria, should be the final nail in the climate-change-denier coffin, thoroughly dispelling any lingering skepticism about the science of global warming.

A lead author in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace prize with Al Gore, Weaver provides an authoritative, yet accessible, explanation of the science behind climate change and the recent history of public debate over the matter.

According to Weaver, climate scientists struggled for decades to communicate the dangers of global warming, but the tide of public opinion has finally turned, thanks in part to the success of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and a flurry of terrible weather-related disasters like Hurricane Katrina. The media, initially wedded to principles of journalistic balance, even in the face of scientific consensus, is now presenting the issue in its proper light (in 2003, 36.6% of all major newspaper stories provided artificially balanced coverage of climate change, compared to only 3.3% in 2006.)

While this sea change is certainly cause for hope, the fact that it took so long is both tragic and unnecessary. As Weaver makes clear, the science of global warming is well-established, dating back to the early 19th century with people like Svante August Arrhenius, winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry, who developed the first theoretical model illustrating how carbon dioxide can affect the Earth’s temperature.

In 1938, a British steam engineer named Guy Callendar studied the effects of fossil fuel combustion on global temperatures, leading him to identify a man-made element to warming. By the 1950s, warning bells were already going off in the scientific community about the possibility of continuing temperature increases.

Between 1965 and 2007, there were 30,219 scientific studies published on the topic of climate change. Weaver distils this massive body of literature into manageable chapters, including everything from the basics, such as the greenhouse gas effect and its related causes (carbon dioxide, although the main contributor to global warming, is only one of many greenhouse gasses) to debunking common myths about sunspots and “global cooling.”

While much of the recent literature on climate change has now moved beyond the science, evaluating potential policy solutions to the problem, there is likely no better introduction to the subject than Weaver’s Keeping Our Cool. It records that Canada has a poor performance on emissions. In 2004, we produced 2.2% of all global emissions of carbon dioxide, despite having less than 0.5% of the global population.
“Alberta, the home of Canada’s oil and gas industry, contributes a whopping 31.4% of total Canadian emissions,” writes Weaver, “despite having only 10% of Canada’s population.”

B.C., Manitoba and Quebec produce 8.9%, 2.0% and 12.3% of total emissions although they represent 13%, 3.7% and 24% of the overall population because these provinces make extensive use of hydro power for electricity needs.


-- review by Martin Twigg

[BCBW 2009]

Generation Us: The Challenge of Global Warming (Orca, $9.95)

from Louise Donnelly
If you spent a good part of last winter scraping frost off your car’s windshield and bundling up in mittens, toques and woolen scarves you might be inclined, for a few frigid minutes anyway, to give some credence to the notion that global warming is a hoax.

But not so. Andrew Weaver states emphatically in Generation Us: The Challenge of Global Warming that increased greenhouse gases are responsible for making 2010 the hottest year in the past 130 years.

Scientists know this “as surely as medical professionals understand that smoking causes cancer. We stop smoking if we want to lower our risk of developing lung cancer. We must stop emitting greenhouse gases to the atmosphere if we want to stop global warming.”

Generation Us, a selection of the Rapid Reads series featuring truncated versions of popular fiction and timely nonfiction titles, offers a condensed overview of the detailed and science-backed argument for action now, not later, as presented in Weaver’s Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World (Viking Canada).

Weaver begins by defining the difference between climate and weather. Climate guides us in choosing May for a family reunion. It should be pleasant then, just the right temperature for an outdoor celebration. But what if there’s a sudden snow flurry on that late spring day, an event not unheard of in Canada? That’s weather.

Or, as Weaver puts it: “Climate is what you expect; weather is what you get.” Walking readers through an explanation of the scientific method and defining the various stages of how knowledge is acquired, he moves on to outline the coming fallout from rising sea levels, changing precipitation patterns and struggling ecosystems.

Weaver acknowledges “projected climate change for the next twenty to thirty years is very similar whether we continue with growing emissions or we start to stabilize and slowly reduce emissions.”

How then can we be motivated to take action in our busy daily lives when the benefits from these actions won’t be apparent in our lifetime? “Do we have any responsibility for the well-being of future generations?” Weaver asks. It’s a question only society, not science, can address.

If the answer is yes, Generation Us offers possibilities for personal and political change. The solutions are not simple or easy, nor are they without economic and ethical implications. Recycling, buying organic, switching from incandescent to fluorescent light bulbs are mere “baby steps.” A fundamental shift is required. There must be a re-examination of how our choices today will affect the lives of our grandchildren’s grandchildren. Only then can we evolve from the “Me Generation” to the “Us Generation.”

Andrew Weaver is professor and research chair in climate modeling and analysis at the University of Victoria, a lead author in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and 2007 co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2008 he was appointed to the Order of British Columbia. 978-1-55469-804

[BCBW 2011]