A Cocktail Party Guide to Global Warming: Soundbyte-free science

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Shortcuts can work. Sometimes, they get the better of even the brightest business minds. And, sometimes, they bite us in the posterior as we completely miss the train.

A soundbyte is that modern age, Blackberry-fueled shortcut: a way to stand on the shoulders of giants and give the appearance that we have done our research on complex, science informed concerns like climate change when, in fact, we only Googled the issue’s peripheral details and quotes.

Sometimes, provided we are already driven by — and often, saturated in — energy and environment research in our working lives, a soundbyte can support and extend our latent vessels of knowledge.

As a stand alone, however, a soundbyte is a recipe for disaster.

Because, one evening, drink in hand, it hits you: you can not actually back up, in an eloquent, research-based statement, why methane is a lesser “evil” than carbon (thinking is rather black and white at a cocktail party, mais non?) to that obstinate, devil’s advocate of an investment advisor.

And, if there was ever a soundbyte posterchild in our information saturated worlds to divert us from grasping the “bigger picture” and well, science, it’s the climate change soundbyte.

Enter Annette Saliken, the Canadian author of the No. 1 bestselling global warming book on Amazon.ca, “A Cocktail Party Guide to Global Warming” an accessible, easy to read guide for the non-scientist or green business leader interested to brush up on his or her climate change facts.

Saliken is already generating buzz for her guide, having garnered the highly regarded Editor’s Choice Award and Publisher’s Choice Award, reserved for just 2% of the publisher’s stable.

“When I was talking to people and doing my MBA at Royal Roads University [on global warming and alternative energy], I realized how misinformed people were about global warming. They picked up bits and pieces they read. But they still couldn’t connect the dots.”

Saliken is quick to point out that the Guide differs from other books, like Global Warming for Dummies, because it does not begin with a set of assumptions on global warming and then continue to find evidence to support those set of assumptions throughout the book.

“This book is different. It’s organized as more of a reference guide…[P]eople who have used it have said that it’s really useful when they want to find information on a specific issue around global warming.”

Saliken cites a personal example, “sometimes, I would need to know how long methane stays in the atmosphere and I’d wish I would have that data on me.”

Clearly, the Guide’s table of contents and index are cornerstone parts of the book, not mere afterthoughts. In other words, they are organized for the “flip to page 134” reader and are actually usable.

Speaking on using only high quality information sources for the guide, Saliken says that, “people sent us articles from books, TV, magazines, saying ‘you should include this in your book’ and we said ‘no, we are only using primary, science sources’.”

The author opted, instead, to sift through thousands of pages of scientific data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to inform the substance of the guide.

So, stand on the shoulder of giants less the Google shortcut and get back to the global warming devil’s advocate from that cocktail party.

Olga Orda heads the communications consultancy EQUO3 Strategies.

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