Sci-Fi Writers Discuss Climate Catastrophe: Robert J Sawyer, Author Of Hominids

robert-j-sawyer-author-photo-by-bernard-clark-colorThe big announcement came this weekend that over 190 nations had signed on to an agreement in Paris to move their economies in the general direction of away from fossil fuels. It’s being hailed as historic.

All nations signing on to the Paris Agreement, rich or poor, have committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions with the overall goal being to limit global warming to well below 2° Celsius. Included in the document is even an aspirational target of 1.5°C.

Yay, team. But there’s still no popping of corks around the Dechene household. I’ve yet to get over the betrayal of the Kyoto Accord. And while world leaders were forging this climate deal, their trade ministers and business-development minions continue to toil away at a series of trade deals like the TPP and CETA that may make any international program to curb carbon emissions completely moot

As I said in the comments to another post (on a completely different topic), pessimism is my operating system. And that’s especially true where international climate change treaties are concerned. I see no reason to update to the new optimism OS. It’s barely out of beta.

For now, I’m going to wait and see what the Koch Brothers’ countermove is.

Thing is, I really, REALLY hope the world got it right this time. The alternative — runaway global warming — is just too awful to contemplate.

But contemplate we did. For the current Prairie Dog, we contacted three Canadian science fiction writers and asked them what our planet may face if these international deals continue to fail. They had a lot of very sobering things to say on the subject. So much I couldn’t fit everything into the article. So I’m posting longer versions of those interviews here.

This is the third and final interview in the series. It’s with Hugo and Nebula award winning author Robert J Sawyer who’s 23rd novel, Quantum Night, is coming out in March. It’s set largely in Saskatoon, in and around the Canadian Light Source. 


PRAIRIE DOG: What happens to the planet and our society if these climate summits keep failing and we don’t find a way to limit global warming?

ROBERT J SAWYER: My fervent hope is, just like any group of unruly teenagers who have deadlines months in advance for school assignments, they get their homework done at the last possible moment. Of course, there are those who think we’ve passed the last possible moment to contain it to under two degrees. I am hoping that finally all of the time wasting will come to an end.

So I don’t want to be painted as the guy who says, “We’re doomed and here is what it’s like.” 

That said, if we do drop the ball across the globe and we do face two degrees or more celsius of change, it’s going to be a completely different world.

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Sci-Fi Writers Discuss Climate Catastrophe: Nina Munteanu, Author Of Darwin’s Paradox

nina-nov2015To mark the end of the COP21 climate conference in Paris, I contacted three Canadian science fiction writers and asked them what might happen to the planet if we can’t reach an international deal on greenhouse gas reductions. The article that came out of those conversations is titled Apocalypse Hot and is in the Dec 10 Prairie Dog.

The writers I spoke with covered more stuff than I could cram into my meagre word allotment. So, I’m publishing longer versions of those interviews here.

This is the second interview in the series. It’s with Nina Munteanu, a limnologist, ecologist and author of award-nominated speculative novels, short stories and non-fiction such as The Splintered Universe trilogy and The Last Summoner. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Her non-fiction reflection on the meaning of water, Water Is…, is coming out soon.

We spoke for over an hour and I didn’t transcribe the entire conversation. Here are some highlights…


NINA MUNTEANU on what climate change is doing to the water: We are 70per cent water, the planet is 70 per cent water. Water is all around us and we are part of the hydrological cycle whether we think of that way or not.

Climate change is only an aspect of what’s going on with water. We’re talking about over population, the misallocation and misuse of resources including water. The way water is being used, it’s traded on the stock exchange right now. it’s commodified. I had a thing about how many Americans drink bottled water versus whatever else. It’s huge. We’ve commodified water. We grab it from one watershed — there’s the word mining water — they grab it from one water shed and then they bottle it and then they send it off to somewhere else.

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Sci-Fi Writers Discuss Climate Catastrophe: Julie Czerneda, Author Of A Play Of Shadow

Photo by Roger Czerneda Photography
Photo by Roger Czerneda Photography

To mark the end of another global climate summit — the COP21 conference in Paris — I contacted three Canadian science fiction writers and asked them what they thought were some plausible scenarios for the planet if we fail to solve our carbon problem. The article that came out of those conversations is titled Apocalypse Hot and appears in the Dec 10 Prairie Dog.

The writers I spoke with covered a lot of ground but I only had space in the paper to use a few short quotes. So, I’m publishing longer versions of the interviews here on Dog Blog.

First up is Julie Czerneda. She is the author of the novel, This Gulf Of Time And Stars. And she is also the author of A Play Of Shadow, which won the Aurora Award for Best Novel shortly after I interviewed her. Czerneda did graduate studies in biology at the University of Saskatchewan and taught biology at the University of Waterloo. 


PRAIRIE DOG: Many climate scientists and science writers who cover global warming argue that the only way we can hope to keep to 2°C of warming — if that’s even possible any more — is through a major, coordinated international effort. And yet the summits we’ve held on global warming have either failed outright or have come to weak conclusions. Many of those same scientists and writers argue that COP21 in Paris is our last chance to get this right. From your position as a science fiction writer, what do you see happening to the planet and our society if we keep failing at these international summits?

JULIE CZERNEDA: The landscape around us will change. We will have no say in that change. We will have different living things. We will have us, I don’t want to dwell on the failure of food crops, but what we grow and what we eat will have to change. There won’t be the vast prairie landscapes, there won’t be the fruit belts and areas that grow rice. Areas will be diminished or flooded. We’ll have to make shifts to deal with food shortages and changing diets. Our kids may not be able to afford the kinds of things we do now which is having lots of cattle. A good steak may be something we can’t afford in the future.

Continue reading “Sci-Fi Writers Discuss Climate Catastrophe: Julie Czerneda, Author Of A Play Of Shadow