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Renowned journalist and historian Gwynne Dyer to speak in Whistler tonight, Nov. 27

On climate change, the puzzle lies in the politics



There were times during the Cold War—with humanity seemingly on the brink of nuclear disaster—when journalist Gwynne Dyer would ruminate privately about the true costs of war.

"I can remember saying at intervals, 'You know, it's too long since we saw what this stuff does, and we've got stuff 20 times the size now of Hiroshima. What we need is a small demonstration war somewhere that reminds you what this does,'" Dyer recalled, during a phone call from his home in London this week.

"Now, I never said it out loud, because I would have been pilloried. But I thought it, and said it in private, sometimes."

Though humanity averted that disaster, Dyer can't ignore the parallels to the challenges faced today.

"I am now in the same situation, saying what we need is an undeniably climate-related disaster that does a huge amount of damage in a developed country, because that's about the only way you're going to break through this carapace of denial," Dyer said.

Even then, would it be enough?

As vicious wildfires razed California last week, U.S. President Donald Trump suggested that what is needed is better forest raking (like they do in Finland).

"You couldn't make it up really, could you? And the Finnish president whom he quoted said, 'I didn't say that,' not too mention it's a rather different kind of forest," Dyer said with a laugh.

"We're contending with this. I mean, this is militant stupidity, really."

While the issue begins with the science, the real puzzle lies in the politics, Dyer said.

And it won't be easy to solve.

Rising temperatures will impact food supplies, while rising coastlines force mass migration.

"The climate is going to start taking productivity away, and it will do it selectively, and the places that will get hurt first and worst will be the places in the warmer parts of the world—the tropics and the subtropics—where most of the people live, and they will start to move," Dyer said.

"So you're looking at refugees on a huge scale."

And finding common ground to actually address the root issue isn't likely to become any easier over time, Dyer added.

"The problem becomes that the things you know you need to do—that you already knew you needed to do but weren't doing 20 years ago—are going to become almost impossible to do, because they require a degree of cooperation that is not going to be available in the political and strategic world we're talking about," he said.

After more than a decade researching and writing about climate change, Dyer keeps his optimism in check.

"Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays I manage a certain amount of confidence, though it's false fronted. But this is a Tuesday, so I am being optimistic," he jokes.

"You should meet me on a Wednesday."

Luckily for locals, Dyer is set to present his lecture The Climate Horizon in Whistler tonight, Nov. 27 at Whistler Secondary School starting at 7 pm. Tickets are $10 and available at the door or at

Following the presentation a panel discussion will take place with councillor Arthur DeJong, also Whistler Blackcomb's Mountain Planning and Environmental Resource Manager, AWARE'S Claire Ruddy, and the Centre for Sustainability's Dan Wilson.

A completely revised and updated edition of his 2010 book Climate Wars will be published next year.