Climate change and the Titanic

By Peter Gleick | August 23, 2019

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Ship designer: “I think we should make sure that the Titanic is designed with safeguards against possible future climate changes.”

Ship owners: “That would cost way too much money and is unnecessary.”


Navigator: “Captain, there is a possibility there are climate changes ahead on our current course.”

Captain: “Don’t worry, there are no climate changes ahead. Full speed ahead.”


Radio operator: “Captain, we’re getting initial reports from weather forecasters that climate changes are indeed possible on our current course.”

Captain: “Don’t be silly. It’s impossible to predict the weather.”


Radio operator: “Captain, we now have direct reports from other ships that the waters ahead do have climate changes.

Captain: “Don’t worry, you can’t trust the instruments on those other ships.”


Lookout: “Captain, we’re beginning to see climate changes in the seas ahead.”

Captain: “Don’t worry, this ship was built to handle the climate changes we’ve seen throughout history.”


Lookout: “Captain, we’re beginning to see unusually large climate changes around us.”

Helmsman: “Captain, should we change course?”

Captain: “Don’t worry, we won’t hit them, and it would cost too much to change course.”


Passengers: “Captain, some of us are getting worried about the large numbers of climate changes we’re clearly seeing in the waters around us. We request you take immediate action to avoid the climate changes while there’s still time.”

Captain: “I’m the captain and stop bothering me with your climate change worries.”


Lookout: “Captain, major climate changes, dead ahead.”

Helmsman: “Captain, I recommend we change course to avoid climate changes while we still have time. There are some clear paths we can take.”

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Captain: “Don’t worry, this ship is practically unsinkable. Also, I forbid you from using the term “climate change” anymore.”


Engineer and ship designer: “Captain, we’ve reviewed the ship’s plans and it turns out there are several serious vulnerabilities in our design.”

Captain: “Don’t worry. Climate changes have never been a problem in the past, and a little climate change might even be good. Also, we can pick up more ice for the champagne.”


First Mate: “Captain, we’ve struck a major climate change and the ship is filling with water. Should we plug the hole and alert the passengers?”

Captain: “Don’t worry, it’s just a small hole and the ship will be fine. Besides, it would cost too much to fix the hole.”


First Mate: “Captain, the ship is sinking, and it turns out we only have lifeboats for some of the passengers. Should we abandon ship?”

Captain: “Well, tell the first-class passengers they might want to put on life jackets and get in the lifeboats. The passengers in steerage can fend for themselves. Also, build a wall between the first-class passengers and everyone else.”


Radio operator: “Captain, I’ve sent out an SOS, but it turns out there’s no one out there to help us.”

Rich passenger: “Maybe we could build a plane and fly a couple of us to another ship.”

Captain: “Yes, let’s go.”


First Mate, helmsman, and lookout: “Wait, doesn’t tradition say the captain should go down with his ship?”

Captain: “Not anymore. I’m out of here. Also, it’s all your fault for not warning me in time.”

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David Hrivnak
4 years ago

Well written analogy

Norma Jean Morrissey R.N.

Having read a great deal about Titanic. her sisters and other doomed ships, I think there was much hubris and indifference where passengers and crew were concerned. Very simply put why the hell weren’t there enough life boats. Titanic hit the iceberg at 11:40 pm and sank at 2:20am. Sounds like there would have been enough time for all on board to abandon ship, if only there had been enough lifeboats. Yes, there’s the problem! The ship was unsinkable, so Mr. Ismay decided they didn’t need boats cluttering the decks!⛴What is sad is that regulations of the day said there… Read more »