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Talking About Climate Change

Climate change is a huge problem – perhaps the greatest problem in the world at the moment. It is what we can an existential threat, meaning that it’s something that could possibly destroy the whole world. If it got bad enough, everyone could die. 

Today we are going to watch an interesting video by Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist. In the video, she talks about how we can reach out to climate change deniers and thus work together for a better future. 

The Video

The purpose of this video, today, is to get ideas for writing and speaking about climate change (and society and the environment). Watch the video and make notes. (We’ll get to some questions later.)

Listening

First off, let’s do a little listening practice. We’ll do a gap-fill exercise to improve your listening and vocabulary skills. Skip ahead in the video to 04:11, and fill in the following blanks. Pay attention to spelling, and if you didn’t exactly hear the answer, take a guess by thinking about the context and sound. (Answers are below.)

What can we do to break this ____1____? The number one thing we can do is the exact thing that we’re not doing: talk about it. But you might say, “I’m not a _____2_____. How am I supposed to talk about radiative forcing or cloud parametrization in climate models?” We don’t need to be talking about more science; we’ve been talking about the science for _____3_____. Did you know that it’s been 150 years or more since the ___4___, when climate scientists first discovered that digging up and burning coal and gas and oil is producing heat-trapping gases that is wrapping an extra blanket around the _____5_____? That’s how long we’ve known. It’s been 50 years since scientists first ______6_____ a US president of the dangers of a changing climate, and that president was Lyndon B. Johnson. And what’s more, the social science has taught us that if people have built their ____7_____on rejecting a certain set of facts, then arguing over those facts is a personal attack. It causes them to dig in deeper, and it digs a trench, rather than ______8_____.

Speaking

As the topic of climate change is quiet difficult, it’s very unlikely that you would encounter it in IELTS speaking part 1, and it doesn’t really fit with part 2, either. However, you could definitely be asked about it for part 3. 

Here are a few example questions, with model answers, and useful vocabulary highlighted in bold

Q: Do you believe that climate change is a serious problem? 

A: Of course I do. The scientific consensus is that climate change is real, and that it is caused by human activities. Honestly, it is incredible that in 2018, people still argue about this. The links between burning fossil fuels and changes to the climate of our planet are obvious. 

Q: What causes climate change? 

A: That’s a difficult question to answer fully because the causes are complex; however, I can name a few contributing factors. It seems that harmful gases and other emissions from factories are significantly damaging the atmosphere. In addition, agriculture is a major contributor due to cattle ranching, and transportation obviously adds to the damage because of the fuel burned by our vehicles. 

Writing

You are most likely to encounter the topic of climate change in IELTS writing task 2. There are various ways it could be included, such as discussion, argument, or even causes and solution essays. 

Here is one possible question: 

Climate change is a phenomenon that affects countries all over the world. Many people strongly believe that it is the responsibility of individuals, rather than corporations and governments, to deal with this problem.

To what extent do you agree? 

And here is my sample answer: 

In the twenty-first century, very few people can deny that climate change is a major problem for the human race. However, opinions are split over how to deal with the issue, with some people contending that individuals should shoulder the responsibility, and others suggesting that it is up to governments and corporations. This essay will argue that it is more important for people to make efforts towards solving the problem.

Firstly, it seems obvious that the governments and major corporations of the world should be the ones to take the lead in fighting climate change. However, these are run by relatively few people, and their interests are often selfish, or at least limited by checks on their power. It is the average man and woman who will be most affected by climate change, and who has the greatest reason to fight against it. Furthermore, when people are told to believe something by an organization, it is possible that they will react with skepticism, and their own efforts in changing their behavior will be minimal. 

Considering this, it follows logically that governments and corporations would be forced to help in battling climate change. When an entire population requires something, the government and businesses of that nation must give it to them, or they will lose money or power. The tide of popular opinion changes, and the powers listen. When this happens, a far more significant change is made than when a simple government policy is enacted.  

In conclusion, it may seem logical that governments and major corporations should take the lead in the fight against climate change, but in fact if the people are the ones to push the issue, then a far greater movement is created and more positive change is possible.

To what extent do you agree?

Answers

  1. vicious cycle
  2. scientist
  3. over 150 years
  4. 1850s
  5. planet
  6. formally warned
  7. identity 
  8. building a bridge

Author: David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural China, and loves to travel. He has worked as an IELTS tutor since 2010, has completed both TEFL and CELTA courses, and has a certificate from Cambridge for Teaching Writing. In 2018, he wrote the popular IELTS handbook, Grammar for IELTS Writing. His other IELTS website is called IELTS Teaching.

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