The IPCC Challenge: Parisian Contradictions: An Odd Source of Hope


Parisian Cafe Smoking      Parisian Building         Coal Plant Smoking

I had dismissed as routine touristic gushing that oft heard claim, “Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world!” However, just a few strolls down Parisian avenues, especially along the Seine River, educated me. The long, low elegant silhouettes of Parisian buildings, elaborated with intricate carvings and a seemingly endless variety of wrought iron designs, and usually standing 6 or fewer stories in height, revealed a vast Paris sky and the effect on my awareness was calming.  Paris was “beautiful”!  I gave myself over to the enjoyment of strolling in pleasurable contemplation.

My calm contemplation was all too soon disturbed by confrontation with the omnipresent second hand smoke in the inviting spaces of Parisian outdoor cafés. My strategy of selecting a table far from puffing customers was but a vain hope, for some adjacent empty table would soon fill with new customers who would, all too soon, light up their strong Galois cigarettes.  Smokers were of all ages, but I found watching young people chain smoking especially unnerving.  Encountering this smoking in café’s wherever I went in Paris finally inspired an internet search about the impact of smoking on the health of the French. Indeed, studies had found significant links between French smoking and cancer rates. In fact, the French government had undertaken policies to reduce smoking, but, as my café experience indicated, cultural acceptance of the habit persisted

As I considered these sorry facts supported by a harmful culture, I suddenly felt an odd note of hope for fighting negative attitudes towards climate change policies in the U.S. The reason was that I had experienced the pervasiveness of smoking, the culture of its acceptance and glorification, and the long but eventually effective fight to reduce smoking in the United States.

As a child and well into adulthood, I accepted the second hand smoke of parents, other adults, colleagues and friends as if it were the paint on the walls. Although a movie showing a tar encrusted black lung had convinced me not to smoke, I accepted the smoking around me as inevitable and assumed that people could not quit.  When the arguments against smoking slowly started to pervade the culture, I watched the resistance and the fierce anger of those who began to experience being asked not to smoke. I also remember my astonishment when people, even my chain smoking parents, began giving up smoking.  It was apparently not impossible after all! And I watched with surprise as smoking began to disappear in new movies and as spaces, from airplanes to restaurants, became smoke free.

The most recent and very alarming  report from the IPCC, the International Panel on Climate Change, has assessed the implication of studies gathered from both  around the world and “above the world” from the climate data gathered by NASA(National Aeronautics and Space Administration)  satellites as they traverse the  global skies. The news is even more sobering that the studies of French smoking and cancer.  We have but 12 years to make changes that will avoid devastating harm to the human habitat. And, as in the case of smoking, we need to alter both our personal habits and policies by more powerful decision makers in order to reduce our burning of the fossil fuels which are at this very moment changing the climate. Fortunately, the many climate change campaigns already underway are, like the anti-smoking campaigns, broad and many pronged, including research, awareness raising and urging of individuals and policy makers to “quit smoking carbon and its equivalents.”

I know that smoking is still a problem in the U.S., but I have experienced significant changes in belief systems and the personal habits and official policies that helped reduce smoking. Thus I drew hope from the contemplation of the contradiction between the clear skies above the beautiful buildings of Paris and the cloudy, toxic atmosphere in front of their ubiquitous, lively cafes.  We must persist and indeed increase our pursuit of our complex, many fronted battles against practices that aggravate climate change and take heart from our experience with smoking as evidence that seemingly impossible change can occur.  This is an implicit call for activism, and I have provided electronic pathways to means of learning more and becoming active below.


Climate Change Report Sources

Most recent Climate Change Report: IPCC , International Panel on Climate Change. October 2018. Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees.

 Insights into NASA (National Aeronautic and Space Adminstration )data:

NASA .IPCC Projections of Temperature and Precipitation in the 21st Century

`             NASA climate Change web page:

Newspaper Articles Summarizing the report

Davenport, Carol. 10/7/2018. Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040

Watts, Jonathan Mon 8 Oct 2018 . We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN

At John Jay College of Criminal Justice

For students

Environmental Justice Minor Academic Program:

Join the  Environmental Club:President: [email protected]
Vice-President:  [email protected] Treasure:[email protected]
Secretary:[email protected]

For Faculty Union members:

PSCEJWG: Professional Staff Congress Environmental Justice Working Group: The meet monthly, usually at 6pm at  Union Headquarters at 61 Broadway. Their goal is to promote environmental justice activism in general and at CUNY.The current chair is Eileen Moran at [email protected]

For All

Sustainability and Environmental Justice Program web page

Sustainabilty Council Web page

Joining Sustainablity Council: email of director Lindsey Kayman [email protected]

Citizen Activism

General: 350.0rg

350 uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal,oil and gas projects, take money out of the companies that are heating up the planet, and build 100% clean energy solutions that work for all. 350’s network extends to 188 countries.

Legal: NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)  NRDC  The NRDC combines the power of more than three million members and online activists with the expertise of some 600 scientists, lawyers, and policy advocates across the globe to ensure the rights of all people to the air, the water, and the wild.


French smoking: health impacts and cultural barriers

Cao B1Hill C2Bonaldi C3León ME4Menvielle G5Arwidson P3Bray F1Soerjomataram I1Cancers attributable to tobacco smoking in France in 2015. Eur J Public Health. 2018 Aug 1;28(4):707-doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cky077. For French Teens Smoking Still Has More Allure Than Stigma.