“Climate change for dummies”

By Nicole Dionne

When your car is broken, you see a mechanic. When your computer is broken, you ask your most tech-savvy friend to take a look. When you want to know more about climate change, you probably wouldn’t think to talk to a doctor.

“People ask me, ‘You’re a cardiologist, why are you writing a book about global warming?’” says Bradley Dibble, MD, somewhat exasperatedly. Dibble is the author of Comprehending the Climate Crisis, a book that’s been dubbed “climate change for dummies.”

The question asked of him is fair, though. Dibble is not a climate scientist and he’s never received formal education on the subject.

“As physicians, I think our duty to care for people extends beyond those people who walk into our offices,” explains Dibble.

“It’s not that dissimilar from doctors who have worked hard at getting smoking bans,” he adds.

Dibble isn’t an environmental activist in the traditional sense. While he cares about climate change and heartily disagrees with skeptics, he’s always tried to be very objective, a carry-over from his years of medical practice.

“One of the things I liked about cardiology, one of the things that attracted me to it, is that we have a lot of objective information. The art of medicine is there, it always is, but I really get to feel that I’m doing things very objectively,” he says.

Dibble’s interest in climate science peaked back in 2009 when he served as part of the Sustainable Development Advisory Council, an initiative by the Government of Canada that appoints its members to advise the Minister of Environment.

“I went into it with an objective scientist approach, and I think I ended up becoming more of an activist as time went on,” he admits.

Being involved in SDAC discussions with experts about climate change allowed him to learn a lot about the the complexities and socioeconomic nuances surrounding the issue. In his search for additional material on the topic, Dibble found that there was a lack of information available for everyday people who just wanted to know the facts behind climate change.

“I wanted to make sure people were aware of the science,” he says.

In his own practice, Dibble often has to explain complicated medical information to patients so that they can make informed decisions about treatment options and understand what is going on with their own health. He figures this experience helps him explain facts at the heart of climate change science, while still keeping it accessible.

“I’ve always felt that I’ve been objective in my approach. The book follows a fairly objective, factually based style in trying to get that information across.”

Comprehending the Climate Crisis achieves exactly what Dibble sets out to do, breaking down the facts and issues down to their very basic concepts. The majority of the book sets up the groundwork of relevant ideas and disciplines — from the cycling of the biosphere, to the historical importance of the industrial revolution — and Dibble explains everything simply and accurately, without being condescending. His use of colourful analogies helps to make complex ideas easy to grasp and keeps the book entertaining.

Dibble is optimistic that the global community will be able band together and deal with the issue, even if climatological demise isn’t in the immediate future for the human race. He points to the example of the Montreal Protocol which, in 1987, banned the use of CFCs due to their negative impact on the ozone layer.

“The nations agreed and they all made a difference. Here we are a few decades later now and we’re seeing the ozone hole getting better.”

Comprehending the Climate Crisis is an informative, short read, but if you are already familiar with climate change, then you may want to skip it. The topic of global warming doesn’t rear its head until nearly halfway through the book and due to the breadth of the topics covered, it often feels like a refresher on high-school science. For those without a background in science but still curious about the topic, Dibble has written Comprehending the Climate Crisis especially for you — if a cardiologist can write a book on climate change, then university students can surely understand it.

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