The festive season is upon us. Many will gather with friends and family to eat, drink and be merry. Ah bliss. Nothing says AWKWARD! more than your uncle shouting across the table that ‘climate change is a hoax and a cash grab by the elites, please pass the mashed potatoes’; or when your old highschool friend shakes her head that this climate stuff is ‘a bunch of hooey’ and ‘they can take my minivan keys from my cold, dead hands’.

What do you say?

Do you pivot to the latest sports scores? Discuss a show on yet another new streaming service? Debate whether peanut butter is better smooth or crunchy? You could keep it light and be on your merry way.



Or you could tackle this head on and try to change some minds … easy as pie (or nailing Jello to a tree). But it’s a good time to be brave. The climate situation is urgent and we can neither dilly nor dally. There just isn’t the time.

What not to say?

No one like finger pointing, blame and yelling that they are the reason the world is burning and you hate them. That will not fly.

finger wagging
How most people react to finger pointing

People hate being wrong. It’s physically uncomfortable to have your whole world view challenged by new information. How to get someone to see the other side and not double down on denial? Maybe the best way is to listen first to what they believe (no matter how very, very wrong they are). 


They may say:

“But the climate is always changing!”

Absolutely true! But never changed as fast and furious as it has these last 150 years or so (psst, that’s the whole Industrial Revolution thing where we started burning fossil fuels). One of the most fun ways to traipse through time and temperature is by XKCD. Click on it for the full version and enjoy the Spinal Tap joke …

Climate the Oatmeal

As a Canadian, I can’t help but notice this looks a lot like a hockey stick, but not in an awesome ‘used by Wayne Gretzky or Hayley Wickenheiser’ kind of way.


They may say:

“But the climate isn’t warming, it’s actually getting colder!”

It may feel like that today as I write this (a frosty -17 with wind-chill in Toronto) but we have all the numbers here. It’s clear and colourful in NASA’s global temperatures video where you’ll see 50 years of patterns in only 14 seconds…


They may say:

“OK maybe the climate is changing, but it’s NOT OUR FAULT!”

Much as I’d love to quote Shaggy and say “it wasn’t me”, it was. And it was you, and your parents, your neighbours, your dentist … you get the picture. In the last 150 years there are a LOT more people (1.2 billion did some major begetting for the 7.5 billion now).

These masses of people are livin’ larger than our ancestors, trading in the horse ‘n’ buggy for cars and planes. We’re also building bigger houses, double the size of what we built 50 years ago. All that extra space needs to be heated and cooled which often burns more fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas (though it doesn’t have to if we transition to clean energy).

The usual suspects like ocean currents, volcanoes or big ol’ dino-destroying asteroids all have “airtight alibis”. Climate change is caused by all of us burning fossil fuels like it’s going out of style (which I hope it does, and soon).


They may say:

“The science isn’t settled”

A whopping 97% of climate experts agree that climate change is happening and that humans are causing it. The other 3% are often paid by fossil fuel companies. Anyone want to bite the hand that feeds them?

climate studies_consensus

They may say:

“OK, it’s happening, but it’s not that bad. We can adapt!”

It may be tempting in a cold country like Canada to think that climate change, especially the warming part, might be a good thing. Why go south when we can soon grow palm trees in Toronto? But it’s not so rosy: rising oceans, food insecurity, heat waves, infectious diseases, damage to homes and roads (especially anything coastal), bigger floods and storms (and more costly damage to rebuild after them). It’s actually really expensive to NOT do anything about climate change.

The Lancet in the UK does it best by describing how climate change will be the most significant factor for any child born today, especially if we keep it business-as-usual. Not gonna lie … it’s pretty grim, so hang in there till 1:50 for what the future could look like if we change for the better.


They may say:

“There’s nothing I can do about it. Why change now?”

There absolutely IS something we can do about it … a lot of things actually, not 1 magic bullet. Here’s the lucky top 7:

  1. Vote for climate action with your ballot (government) and wallet (businesses)
  2. Put a price on pollution (if it costs more, people use less. If it’s free, nobody cares)
  3. Electrify everything (cars, stoves, furnaces, lawnmowers … anything with a noisy, stinky engine)
  4. Make sure the electricity is clean and renewable (no such thing as clean coal)
  5. Drive and fly less … walk, bike and take transit more
  6. Eat more plants and less meat or processed junk
  7. Practice the 5 R’s for everything … energy and stuff


If individuals, governments and businesses all play by the same rules with the same goal in mind, we got this! The Lancet even has a country-by-country climate wish-list. Check out Canada!

If you feel that the world is so divided that we can’t possibly collaborate, we’ve done this before and can do it again. Remember the massive holes in the ozone layer back in the 80’s? 24 countries signed on to the Montreal Protocol in 1987 to phase out the nasty chemicals attacking the ozone layer. Decades later, the ozone layer is healing!

Actually doing something about climate change won’t be easy, and it will take effort from everyone, even your climate change-denying family. And it all might start with an awkward and brave conversation at your holiday meal.


Dig deep for some pretty cool (or warm) references: