Bernard Besson on Global Warming

Bernard Besson, a prize-winning thriller writer and former top-level French intelligence officer, talks to us about The Greenland Breach, a novel about the real consequences of global warming. It’s got a cracking ice cap, rival multinationals and cutthroat espionage. Available in translation next week.

Why did you write this global warming thriller?

I had questions about global warming and its consequences, just like my readers do, and I wanted to entertain readers with a good story.

What surprised you the most as you wrote it?

When I met with glaciologists and climatologists, I was surprised by how incredibly complex the issue of climate change is. The causes of global warming are both ancient and modern. The same applies to more or less quick global cooling. In 1715, wine froze on the king of France’s table in Versailles. A few thousand years ago, London and Paris were iced over.

What do you think will surprise readers the most?

The phenomenon of global warming has already occurred several times. Greenland literally means “green land.” Europeans lived there among green pastures before a period of global cooling at the beginning of the Middle Ages. The Inuits had another conception of the world and of society than Europeans and they survived and adapted. The beliefs and values we hold help us survive climate change, or die from freezing or thirst.

What is your message to readers in this book?

I want to get across a more balanced, less dramatic view of climate change. Some of the consequences could be beneficial. There will be farmland in Greenland and elsewhere; there will be new trade routes. Siberia and Alaska could become the new El Dorado.

Did this book change your life?

This book changed my views on global warming, which I used to consider to be a kind of end of the world. I realized there had been several ends of the world—from both cooling and warming. Humanity is capable of adapting to climate change. It has done so on several occasions in the past and it will do so again in the future. I am more afraid of errors made by governments than I am of changes in the weather. What we have to fear is that nations will not manage to live together peacefully.