No, Winter is Not Coming

An open letter to J.R.R. Martin and the makers of HBO’s Game of Thrones

Dear Sers,

You’ll never find a bigger fan of your awesome period drama A Game of Thrones.

I’ve downloaded just about every single episode. GoT has become a fixture in the Keyes household, where we’re already halfway through Season 4—and itching to see Tyrion get what’s coming!

Of course, we all want to protect our kids from the more horrific aspects of the real world. It’s only natural. But they have to learn about English history somewhere, and I’ve always believed the best place is the home, where it’s safe to ask questions. So we have a rule at our house: if you’re old enough for kindergarten you’re old enough for Monday-night family time in the computer room.

That’s why it’s so sad when Game of Thrones gets the science wrong.

Climate parenting is tricky at the best of times, but the last thing anyone needs is a bawling 4-year-old who demands reassurance that, no, a resumption of geohistorically normal conditions—or quote-unquote “glaciation”—is not coming.

Ever.

Some of you may be climate parents yourselves!

We, the climate community, respectfully hope you will work with us, not against us.

Together, there’s no reason we can’t get the science and the events of the Wars of the Roses right.

You probably have one or two misgivings about correcting a catchphrase so central to your intellectual property. I’ve therefore taken the liberty of thoroughly debunking your concerns as follows.

1. “It’s just a TV show!”

Just a TV show? Just a TV show?

I have to say, I wasn’t expecting such an ignorant argument from you of all people, HBO.

GoT is a cultural phenomenon! When asked what they want to be when they grow up, children are now more likely to say ‘Hand of the King’ than ‘climate scientist.’

Try explaining to your child that Michael E. Mann may not have a hereditary longsword, flowing sandy hair, or honor, but that doesn’t make him any less ‘cool’ than Edward “Ed” Stark. It’s a great way to embarrass her in front of her schoolfriends.

We implore you not to sell short the arcane power of the flickering image. As we in the climate-change business know only too well, half the population is barely capable of telling fact from fantasy. If they see it on a screen it must be real.

With the stakes so high, mixed messages are never harmless.

2. “But it’s too late to change the script now.”

Oh, come on, I don’t buy this for a second. You’ve got some of premium cable’s best writers on payroll!

There isn’t an imaginative bone in my body. (I don’t make up the science, I just communicate it.) But it took me all of 5 minutes to come up with some alternative Stark words that are pretty rad, if I say so myself:

Children aren’t going to know what winter is.

Summer is Coming—One Long Summer From Which we may Never Awake.

Even the reyne that does fall on Castamere won’t be enough to fill our dams.

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made catastrophic summer by this sun of Dorne.*

Nobody Is Safe.

Sure, technically, the LIA is coming—but the overwhelming majority of credible maesters describe it as a local phenomenon.

A local phenomenon!

3. “Won’t this compromise our artistic integrity?”

ROFL! Self-important much?

It’s just a TV show, for gods’ sake. (The old and the new.)

And it’s set in the past—which scientists say no longer matters.

Besides, records from the time are patchy at best. Anybody who claims to know what a Warden of the North would say is pulling your leg.

All we can ever know, as humans, is the future. Because we have science. And the future (says science) is basically going to be one endless summer—and not in a good way.

Anything that undermines our preparedness for that future is, frankly, irresponsible.

Knowing you will do the right thing,

Very sincerely,

B. Keyes for the Climate Nuremberg team


*Son of Dorne… sun of dawn—get it? Shakespeare’s take on the whole Lannister vs. York thing may not hold a candle to Mr Martin’s, but the Bard sure was a gun with a pun.

Hat tip to reader KBO.

NOTE Comments containing spoilers will be moderated without mercy if I’m not up to the episode in question yet. We do not have the soft hearts of women here!

7 thoughts on “No, Winter is Not Coming

  1. KBO

    By way of a hommage to Ygritte- You know nothing, Brad Keyes.

    Game of Thrones is very much “on message” when it comes to promoting of Climate Change science. White Walkers (indigenous creatures from the North) have been driven to a point of near extinction! and Dire wolves fair little better, (from the Got Wiki)

    “Direwolves are held to be near-mythical in most of the south of Westeros. Inhabitants of the North acknowledge that they are a real animal, but they are very rarely encountered there.”

    “By the reign of King Robert Baratheon no direwolf had been sighted south of the Wall, even in the Stark lands of the North, in over 200 years.”

    Recent Climate Envelope Modeling, for Threatened and Endangered Species, suggests that land use changes are the primary cause, with Anthropogenic CO2 induced Climate Change identified as the significant “stressor” in an already vulnerable eco-system. The food webs don’t bear commenting on.

    Thankfully the grim and depressing sentinels of Australia’s “Night’s Watch” ( http://www.scaredscientists.com ) are on hand- remember their clarion call? “Nobody is safe!”.
    I think this includes; dwarves, eunuchs (unsullied or otherwise), hounds, mountains and oceanographers. There are winners and losers in the impending “CO2 biodiversity armageddon” obviously- against all forecasts, dragons seem to making a bit of comeback,

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  2. wildeco2014

    “We can barely wait to see Tyrion get what’s coming to him!”

    As I recall, Tyrion was innocent, just like CO2 and human emissions thereof.

    It isn’t a period drama either and has no similarity to English History.

    It is a fantasy drama with some stylistic features similar to Mediaeval times.

    Confusing fantasy and reality is an unwise trait 🙂

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  3. Andthentheresjism

    I wasn’t really sure what to expect coming here but I was generally attracted by this blog’s name and I thought this article was, overall, pretty good. I didn’t get very far through it tbh (it was pretty long) but I did read the first few paragraphs and that was ok enough, it seemed to broadly get the science and the facts right. Bob Ward has also got a good commentary on how winter isn’t coming anymore in the Guardian.

    I don’t know much about medieval England either but from what I hear Game of Thrones gets the facts fairly spot-on. For example, Skeptical Science is pretty clear that there used to be a huge ice wall in the North (http://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?n=796) and that it has now disappeared due to human activities. I think that was the ‘take home’ point of that article but I didn’t get very far into it tbh. (SkS don’t state whether Mag Mar Dun Toh Weg did in fact die in Castle Black’s tunnel).

    In any case this is all consistent both with our understanding of history (from GoT) and with our understanding of AGW (from the consensus). Some of the commentators on my site in an earlier post also agreed I think.

    I also think (though I might be wrong) that science-communication in the modern era is generally about combining the fantastical with the Science. GRR Tolkein has brought the genre back, and other bearded warriors are hopping on the banddragon http://ecowatch.com/2014/08/06/glacier-national-park-climate-change-wildfires/.

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  4. Pingback: To whom it may cheer up | Climate Scepticism

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