Insurance and Climate Change column

Go Ahead and Start a Climate Change Debate at the Thanksgiving Table

By | November 22, 2017

When you pass the turkey gravy on Thursday consider stuffing a hunk of climate change discourse down your uncle Jeb’s gullet.

Let him stew until he’s good and fermented, then agitate as needed to see the fruits of your labor.

If you’re passionate about the subject, don’t let Thanksgiving get in the way of trying to change the minds of your loved ones.

That’s according to some experts, who say that family gatherings like the one about to take place are a great opportunity to change the minds of those close to you.

“Conversations among family members and friends are more likely than messages from experts and pundits to lead to us finding common ground on climate change and beyond,” states an article on Tuesday in Scientific American.

The article cites social-psychological research that suggests people are more influenced by those who they like and respect, such as friends and family members.

“We also pay more attention to messages from people we view as part of our group, particularly when the messages contain quality arguments and the argument feels relevant to our lives,” the article states.

Many attributes associated with effective and persuasive messages, such as likability, respect, group status and trust, are traits that are common among friends and family members, according to the research.

To be fair, these traits probably vary from family to family and friend to friend.

The Scientific American article asserts that conversations among friends and family members “hold potency and offer opportunities” that are missing elsewhere in society.

“So, if we want to see increased climate change concern among Americans, we can’t expect scientists and opinion leaders, sometimes viewed as political actors, to do all of the work,” the article states. “We need to be the ones to reach out to climate change skeptics in our own communities and during our gatherings of friends and family.”

This same line thinking should also hold true for those who want to convince others that climate change isn’t real, or that it isn’t manmade. So have at it, and let the yams fall where they may.

Shy or unsure of how to go about this? Ted Talks has an outline for how to engage someone in a global warming conversation at the Thanksgiving table, or elsewhere.

A five-step instructional advises tailoring the argument to suit the individual or individuals, offer up to them what worries you about climate change, and then appeal to basic values you all share – not just your values.

“You can tap into conservative values like patriotism and purity by talking about how America should prove it’s a world leader by acting decisively to fight climate change or how it’s a point of national pride that we preserve the beauty of our natural environment,” the article states.


A new graphic from NASA that shows 20 years of continuous observations of plant life on land and at the ocean’s surface offers a great bird’s eye view of our changing planet.

The animation shows the planet from September 1997 to September 2017. On land, vegetation appears on a scale from brown to dark green, and at the ocean surface, phytoplankton are indicated on a scale from purple (low) to yellow (high).

The visualization was created using satellite data, and NASA acknowledges the graphic may raise questions as much if not more than it provides answers.

“As NASA begins its third decade of global ocean and land measurements, these discoveries point to important questions about how ecosystems will respond to a changing climate and broad-scale changes in human interaction with the land,” NASA states on a section of its website that purports to track “The Changing Colors of our Living Planet.”

“Satellites have measured the Arctic getting greener, as shrubs expand their range and thrive in warmer temperatures,” the site states. “Observations from space help determine agricultural production globally, and are used in famine early warning detection. As ocean waters warm, satellites have detected a shift in phytoplankton populations across the planet’s five great ocean basins — the expansion of ‘biological deserts’ where little life thrives. And as concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continue to rise and warm the climate, NASA’s global understanding of plant life will play a critical role in monitoring carbon as it moves through the Earth system.”

Click to see animation of the world changing over 20 years. Source: NASA

Turkey Poop

Researchers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University believe turkey excrement is a viable renewable energy resource that could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

Treated excrement from turkeys – this also includes droppings from chickens and other poultry – can be converted to combustible solid biomass fuel and could replace roughly 10 percent of coal used in electricity generation, reducing greenhouse gases and providing an alternative energy source, according to the researchers.

Environmentally safe disposal of poultry excrement has become a significant problem, so converting poultry waste to solid fuel, which is a less resource-intensive, renewable energy source, “is an environmentally superior alternative that also reduces reliance on fossil fuels,” the researchers say.

The researchers evaluated two biofuel types to determine which is the more efficient .

They compared the production, combustion and gas emissions of what is known as biochar, which is produced by slow heating of the biomass at a temperature of 842°F in an oxygen-free furnace, with hydrochar. Hydrochar is produced by heating wet biomass to a lower temperature under pressure using a process called hydrothermal carbonization, which mimics natural coal formation within several hours.

The researchers found that poultry waste processed as hydrochar produced 24 percent higher net energy generation.

“Poultry waste hydrochar generates heat at high temperatures and combusts in a similar manner to coal, an important factor in replacing it as renewable energy source,” the researchers said.

Green Barometer

Most of the world wants green energy, according to a recently released survey of more than 26,000 people in 13 nations.

People were asked their opinions on renewables in Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, the U.K. and the U.S.

The survey was commissioned by Denmark-based Ørsted, which develops, constructs and operates offshore wind farms, bioenergy plants and waste-to-energy solutions and provides smart energy products to its customers.

“For the first time in history, green energy is now cheaper than black energy,” the survey states. “The world now has a unique opportunity to create a world that runs entirely on green energy.”

Eighty-two percent of those surveyed believe it is important to create a world fully powered by renewable energy.

Those beliefs were shared across age groups. According to the survey, 80 percent of those between ages 18-34 felt that way compared with while 86 percent of those age 55 and up. Similar results were shown when education levels were compared.

The survey shows that 75 percent said they will be proud of their country if it invests time and money to become a global leader in green energy, while 73 percent said producing more green energy will boost economic growth.

Seven-in-10 said they think their country should be ambitious about producing green energy, with China leading the way at 89 percent. Denmark (78 percent), the U.S. (78 percent) and France (75 percent) followed.

The survey showed that climate change followed only terrorism as the most pressing global challenge. Caring for an ageing population, access to healthcare and economy growth and job creation rounded out the other top five concerns.

Take this with a grain of salt. The survey was conducted for a pro green energy entity, so consider the source if you decide to sprinkle this into your Thanksgiving argument.

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Topics Energy Climate Change

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