POEM: A Global Warning

31st October 2016

Technically I wouldn’t class this poem as CliFi, but it was my very first attempt at poetry on my masters. I don’t like the term ‘Global Warming’, but I felt that the play on words was appropriate for the title. I prefer prose to poetry, but I wanted to experiment and see how a poem would turn out for me.

Note: I will be posting CliFi pieces, and climate change pieces such as this only once I am confident that I no longer need them for my course (in their current draft/format). So there may be a delay between me producing a piece for my course and posting it to my blog. Please bear with me in this regard.


A Global Warning

First their words fell on deaf ears

But scientists still chose to speak out

Bemoaned for their exaggerated fears

About things that could never come about


Warnings of droughts, floods and fire

Their words are a shade of dark

These predictions are incredibly dire

The future is looking stark


Politicians didn’t believe inside

The predictions would come true

Talks were held about the rising tide

Yet actions were far and few


Spanning all human activity

The problem’s roots are deep

At our complete lack of receptivity

It’s difficult not to weep


Time is fast running out

But all is not quite lost

We’ll have to wield all our clout

And solutions will come at a cost


Renewable energy can bring jobs and prosperity

They can make the future clean

Helping move us out of austerity

Whilst creating a tomorrow that’s green


Fossil fuels should remain in the ground

Helping to reduce pollution

Solar and wind energy have been found;

A much cleaner solution


This is a fight for our children’s earth

To keep unique fauna and flora alive

We need to give it everything we’re worth

Providing them with a chance to thrive


The need to act is clearly pressing

A greener future is what we should seek

We can turn this into a blessing

To avoid a fate that’s bleak

Cause for Hope

28th October 2016

It’s not often we hear about positive stories in the news. But today, something truly amazing happened. After 5 years of failed negotiations, the EU and 24 countries have now agreed to protect 1.1m sq km of the Ross Sea in Antarctica. This will become the largest marine park in the world.

The Ross Sea is a very special part of the ocean, producing an estimated three-quarters of the nutrients that sustain life in the world’s oceans.

Many individuals, groups and organisations came together to help get the agreement over the line. I would like to briefly mention the stand-out efforts of one person, who went to extreme lengths to protect this unique ecosystem. Lewis Pugh is an ocean advocate, who undertook 5 swims in the Ross Sea (wearing just a speedo! Check out the video here) and followed that up with numerous meetings with politicians and diplomats. Lewis undertook the swims to highlight the need to protect the waters around Antarctica; this is what real dedication towards a cause looks like.

Thank you and well done Lewis. You consistently prove that we can all achieve our dreams, regardless of how ‘impossible’ they may initially seem.

More Cause for Hope

I could write an extensive blog post about Lewis’ incredible achievements and how he has inspired me, but I will only talk about one more of Lewis’ actions today. Recently, Lewis took part in the largest beach clean-up in history, at Versova Beach in India.

In this video, Lewis talks about how when you look at a problem that’s caused by 1.3 billion people (the population of India), it may seem impossible to solve. However, when you take a problem and divide it by 1.3 billion people – the opposite is true.

I often look at climate change and think to myself; this is problem caused by a population of over 7.4 billion people and counting. How can we seriously tackle a problem that is caused by so many people, when it will involve such massive changes to our society? But when you apply Lewis’ thinking, if we can get a fair percentage of the 7.4 billion people to care, then it suddenly seems a little bit more achievable.

I would encourage you to watch the video here. Let’s dream, work and fight for a cleaner environment.


World’s largest marine park created in Ross Sea in Antarctica in landmark deal – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/28/worlds-largest-marine-park-created-in-ross-sea-in-antarctica-in-landmark-deal

Lewis Pugh: Sometimes ‘Crazy’ Gets the Job Done – http://lewispugh.com/sometimes-crazy-gets-the-job-done/

VIDEO: Lewis Pugh’s 5 Swims in the Ross Sea – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CoDPyCWMzU

VIDEO: Lewis Pugh at the Versova Beach Clean-Up – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BF1CqXU_VUQ&feature=youtu.be

Cli-Fi Book Review: ‘Solar’ by Ian McEwan

23rd October 2016

As part of my degree, we are encouraged to read as much as possible. This week, I completed ‘Solar’ by Ian McEwan, one of the most cited pieces in the Cli-Fi genre. The book spans many geographical regions, including the UK, Norway and the US. It encompasses love, infidelity, divorce and death (though not necessarily in that order) and McEwan does a great job of creating exceptionally believable characters.

The book follows a primary character in the form of Nobel award winning Professor Michael Beard, who has a very messy personal life to say the least. The Professor ends up working on a solar powered solution to tackle climate change – an idea that doesn’t belong to him.

Personally I didn’t find the plot that interesting, but I think the characters helped keep the story moving. I think McEwan also did well to incorporate humour in a book about climate change, which as per all the reviews on the inside book cover, seemed to be appreciated by critics in kind. My favourite part of the book was an incident that took place on the train with the Professor – though I won’t give away any spoilers!

By far and away, the biggest takeaway for me was the way in which McEwan communicated climate science throughout. It is difficult to do weave climate science into a story in a way which avoids ‘lecturing the reader’. But McEwan cleverly uses the Professor to relay this information and you never feel like you are being ‘given a lesson’ in climate change.

I would also like to applaud McEwan for his extremely well researched climate change information; for someone who isn’t an expert in climate science, he did an excellent job in showing that the Professor was.

Most reviews conclude with a rating. But I think I need to read a significant number of Cli-Fi books, before I can give a book an accurate rating. Instead, perhaps at the end of the year I might compile a list of my top 10 favourite pieces of climate fiction in order of preference.

Will this book make it into the top 10? We’ll have to wait and see!

Deepwater Horizon – A Review of Sorts

4th October 2016

I recently became aware that we need to keep around two thirds of existing fossil fuels in the ground (based on reserves in operation), in order to stand any chance of meeting the 1.5C climate change target agreed in Paris. We know that burning fossil fuels is a major threat to our climate, and causes a whole raft of related issues like localised air pollution, which is leading to increased mortality rates.

Today I watch the new Deepwater Horizon movie, which if anything reinforced the need to move away from fossil fuels as fast as practically possible (and I mean FAST). Mark Wahlberg plays the lead role in the film, which is about the worst oil spill in US history that took place in April 2010. I won’t go in the plot, as I don’t want to give away spoilers for anyone intending to watch the movie (although if you followed the disaster in 2010, you probably know what to expect). Click here to watch the Deepwater Horizon film trailer.

For me, the film cleverly captures human nature in all it’s positive and negative capacities. We have the heroes like Mark Wahlberg, who are just doing a job and end up forced to go above and beyond in this situation. We also see the greedy BP hierarchy (portrayed by John Malkovich) who only care about making money and have no regard for the safety of the people onboard the rig, or the wildlife which live in the Gulf’s waters. It’s all too easy to stereotype companies like BP as immoral, greedy and selfish. But you watch a film like this and you can see exactly why they deserve those labels. Add in the fact that they are holding up any kind of meaningful action on climate change and you can see why they are detested so widely. A better articulated view on fossil fuel companies can be seen here, in the form of Leonardo Di Caprio’s Oscar acceptance speech.

I was mildly surprised that Halliburton and Transocean escaped so lightly in this movie, but ultimately there were many failings and a lot of them fell squarely on BPs shoulders. This film is definitely one for the cinemas, try see it on as big a screen as you can. I hope this can be used as a lesson and an additional incentive to move away from fossil fuels to cleaner, greener and SAFER renewable technologies.


BP oil spill: judge grants final approval for $20bn settlement – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/apr/04/bp-oil-spill-judge-grants-final-approval-20-billion-dollar-settlement

Manslaughter charges dropped against two BP employees in Deepwater spill – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/03/manslaughter-charges-dropped-bp-employees-deepwater-horizon-oil-spill

The Carbon Budget and the Carbon Bubble

26th September 2016

Carbon Budget

Bill McKibben recently published a sobering article on our remaining carbon budget, based on a new Oil Change International Report.

Bill explains that if we want to meet the target of a maximum 2°C rise in temperatures, then we can release/burn 800 gigatons of CO2. However, if we want to limit the temperature increase to the 1.5°C target agreed in Paris in 2015, then we can only emit 353 gigatons of CO2 (this is a conservative estimate, which will only give us a 50% chance of meeting the target). Our problem arises because the existing coal fields, oil wells and gas fields in operation will produce 942 gigatons of CO2 assuming all of the fossil fuels are extracted and used.

We are therefore left in a situation where we can only afford to use approximately one third of fossil fuels from all fields and wells in operation, if we want to try and stave of the worst impacts of climate change and limit the global average rise in temperatures to 1.5°C. In addition, no government anywhere on the planet can allow a new coal field, oil well or gas field to be approved. This poses a monumental challenge, as fossil fuel companies want to extract every last unit of fossil fuel they can get their hands on. But supposing our political leaders stick to their word (please keep your laughter down) and enforce the 1.5°C, then our leaders are going to have to be brave (sigh) and tell the fossil fuel companies, who just happen to be some of the wealthiest and most powerful companies in the world, that they can only extract and sell around one third of existing fossil fuels from fields and wells that are in operation. This brings me neatly on to my next point – the carbon bubble.

Carbon Bubble

Broadly speaking, the share value of fossil fuel companies are based on the assumption that all coal, oil and gas in existing fields and wells will be extracted and burned. However, as we have seen if we are to stand any chance of meeting the 1.5°C target, then we can only extract and burn one third of existing reserves. As such, there is a significant amount of ‘unburnable carbon’, which some experts refer to as ‘stranded assets’.

Assuming that there is no uptake in carbon capture and storage technology, then the true value of shares at fossil fuels companies could be as low as one third of their current valuations. The current estimates of share value are therefore unrealistic and assume ‘business as usual’ scenarios, with little to no assumptions for future climate policies – this is what is known as the ‘carbon bubble’.

From an economics perspective, there is a fear that this could lead to a similar situation as the ‘housing bubble’, which contributed to the global recession in 2008. This is because a large number of private and public bodies have invested their funds in big oil and gas companies, as they have traditionally been seen as a safe bet. The type of organisations who have invested in fossil fuel company shares, include:

  • Government organisations (including local authorities)
  • Faith based groups (i.e. churches)
  • Foundations
  • Universities and colleges
  • Pension funds (this is a massive worry – if share values plummet to reflect their true value in light of climate change policies, then what happens to people’s pension pots?)
  • NGOs
First Global Divestment Day – 14th February 2015

A whole new movement has started up to encourage ‘divestment’ from fossil fuel companies, which is based on a moral imperative to act on climate change, but also a financial imperative to protect pension funds and university funds, from potentially massive losses should the ‘carbon bubble’ burst and share values tumble.

The excellent US based NGO founded by Bill McKibben, 350.org, has put together a fantastic resource called ‘Go Fossil Free’. On this website, you can join or start your own divestment group, and you can also view some of the 630 organisations who have divested $3.4 trillion from fossil fuel companies so far, which include:

  • Rockefeller Brothers Fund
  • University Glasgow
  • Guardian Media Group
  • Oslo Pensjonsforsikring
  • Anglican churches from around the world
  • British Medical Association
  • City of Cambridge, MA (USA)
  • Newcastle University
  • Quakers in Britain
  • Sheffield Hallam University
  • University of Hawaii
  • University of Southampton

For a full list, please see: http://gofossilfree.org/commitments/


The figures are simple:

  • We have 942 gigatons of CO2 that we intend to emit from current fields and wells.
  • We can only emit 353 gigatons of CO2 at the very most to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Regardless of what you believe about climate change and even if you were to ignore the moral imperative to take action, there is still a strong financial argument to move your money away from fossil fuels. Should you feel so inclined, you might want to look at where your pension provider has invested their funds and if you’re unhappy with their choice – let them know!

We appear to have a tiny amount of leeway with our remaining carbon budget, but we need to commence a ‘Managed Decline’ of fossil fuels starting now, transitioning to a cleaner and greener future.


Bill McKibben – “Recalculating the Climate Math”: https://newrepublic.com/article/136987/recalculating-climate-math

Go Fossil Free: http://gofossilfree.org/

Oil Change International Report – “The Sky’s Limit: Why the Paris Climate Goals Require a Managed Decline of Fossil Fuel Production”: http://priceofoil.org/2016/09/22/the-skys-limit-report/

Why Write about Climate Fiction/Cli-Fi?

24th September 2016

I am often asked about why I chose creative writing and why in particular I want to write about climate fiction (CliFi). How and why could writing about climate change through fiction, be more effective than non-fiction?

I recently came across the twelve  points below from Dan Bloom (the journalist who coined the term Cli-Fi), who kindly agreed to let me share these points on my blog, and they provide an excellent answer to the above question.

“12 ways that cli-fi novels and movies can encourage action on climate change” by staff writers at cli-fi.net

  1. They can “show” the story with powerful storytelling and characters rather than just tell it with scientific charts and statistics.
  2. The publication of cli-fi novels and the release of cli-fi feature movies to the global media can influence international leaders and public opinion.
  3. They can highlight the emotional side of the climate change story, with well-drawn characters and compelling story arc to bring the story home.
  4. Cli-fi novels and movies can encourage empathy for the future.
  5. Cli-fi novels and movies resonate in any language, be it English, French, Italian, Chinese, or dozens of other world languages.
  6. By leading by example, and getting their books read and movies seen, cli-fi authors and screenwriters can reach people on a local and on a national and international level.
  7. Cli-fi novels and movies pose an important question, which only individual artists can answer with their stories: Is the future to be hopeful or full of hurt?
  8. Make sure that cli-fi novels and movies are part of the cultural spaces we inhabit now in the 21st century.
  9. Cli-fi novels and movies might offer solutions; on the other hand they might picture a dystopian future without real solutions. In that case, or in both cases, readers and viewers will need to come up with personal solutions and understandings of their own.
  10. Cli fi novels and movies will reach the young generations now in their teens and 20s.
  11. Cli-fi novel and movies will stand out from the noise of a distracted culture.
  12. The stories that cli fi novels and movies tell will be pivotal and important. This is the power of art and culture.

Thank you to Dan, for letting me share these points.

The Journey Begins

20th September 2016

On Tuesday 13th September, I finished my last day of work and  commenced my MA in Creative Writing. If you know me, this degree may sound random given that I completed my undergraduate degree in climate change; but there is method to this madness.

My beliefs are firmly in line with the 97% of climate scientists who acknowledge that climate change is happening, caused by humans and that we need to act fast. As an individual, I therefore asked myself what I could do to help bring about the change we need and I have decided to focus on engaging a wider audience about the impacts of climate change, through various forms of creative writing (including the newly emerging climate fiction or ‘clifi’ genre). Various articles have pointed out that this type of writing could reach people who wouldn’t usually choose to read non-fiction books/articles about climate change.

To put this in context, climate change largely became a public issue in 1988, when Dr James Hansen spoke before a US Congressional Committee, confirming that humans were increasing the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In the intervening 28 years, we have taken very little action to avoid a ‘worst case climate change scenario’ from occuring. There are many reasons for this. One of which is that climate science is extremely complex and difficult to convey to lay people. Media sensationalism and special interests have also played a role in ‘muddying the waters’ around climate science and as a result, large swathes of the public are unaware of the future impacts we face and the current events taking place around the world which have been exacerbated by climate change. Yes you read that right, we are already seeing some of the early effects of climate change – it isn’t just a ‘future issue’.

In an auspicious turn of events, it just so happened that the 13th September 2016 was the warmest September day on record for the past 105 years in the UK. In addition, the date also marked the 100th birthday of Roald Dahl, one of the main authors who inspired my love of reading and writing at an early age. Perhaps it was a sign.

I can’t think of a more appropriate way to sum up what I hope to achieve, than with the following quote from Roald Dahl himself:


I think we can all do well to remember that – now more than ever we need a concerted effort to tackle a plethora of pressing global issues, including the ‘planetary emergency’ that is climate change.