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Keith Burrows
AIP Education Committee (Vic)
CONASTA July 2009
Why US?
• Other groups talking about climate change:
• ‘Concerned citizens’ – well intentioned,
often not well informed.
Why US?
• Other groups talking about climate change:
– often
not their
“Heartland's mission is to discover, develop, and promote
free-market solutions to social and economic problems.
Such solutions include parental choice in education, choice
and personal responsibility in health care, market-based
approaches to environmental protection, privatization of
public services, and deregulation in areas where property
rights and markets do a better job than government
From ‘About’ on their website.
“The Christian view understands that man is a steward
of creation's resources and dismisses the notion that
man is merely a consumer and polluter.”
Rev. Robert A. Sirico on Heartland’s website
[“steward” here seems to be more like “exploiter”]
“The frustrating thing, very often, is that the only time
religious sentiments or ideas have been expressed in our
society is through left-wing groups. We see this in the
entire environmental movement. Many left-wing groups
who are in the public square are motivated by religious
sentiments – poorly formed religious sentiments, I think.
They are certainly economically uninformed sentiments.
But, nonetheless, they have a voice. We try to provide an
alternative to that.”
Rev. Robert A. Sirico on Heartland’s website
From this article:
“Their [environmentalists] fundamental point and
approach still views human beings as the problem and
seeks to curtail our ambitions: ‘What does ambition mean
if we allow humanity to be represented as the biggest
problem on the planet, rather than as creators of a better
future...? If our ambition is to put nature first, humans
come second. Period.'
For those excited about the potential of humanity to shape
the world, Williams' book is a refreshing and useful
“For those excited about the potential of humanity to
shape the world, Williams' book is a refreshing and
useful polemic.”
There is a constant theme of humanity
‘shaping the world’ – with no apparent
realisation of just how dependent we are
on nature.
So why science teachers?
• There is a huge lack of knowledge out there!
• Only with an understanding of the basic
science will the community make the right
decisions about these extremely important
• the link between CO2 emissions and CC
• energy and greenhouse emissions
• ways to seriously reduce CO2 emissions
Why US?
• the link between CO2 emissions and CC:
– absorption of IR by CO2
– effect of adding more CO2
– feedback with H2O
– other feedbacks (albedo, permafrost, clathrates)
– evidence from palaeoclimate
Why US?
• energy and greenhouse emissions
– nature of fossil fuels (100 million years of
sequestered carbon released in a few centuries)
– relative amounts of energy used (phone charger
versus driving to the shops!)
– concentrated energy (coal, uranium) versus
diffuse energy (solar, wind etc.)
– original source of energy is what matters
(hydrogen cars are no solution ... unless)
Why US?
• ways to seriously reduce CO2 emissions
– reduce energy use
– renewable energy
– nuclear energy
– sequestration of CO2 (from coal and air)
But is the science “settled”?
• Science is NEVER “settled”.
• That climate change is real and largely human
caused is as about as settled as science gets.
• There is debate about the consequences, but
the risk of inaction could be catastrophic.
• Many of the world’s major scientific bodies
have issued statements urging strong
immediate action and warning of dangerous
consequences if not.
Some scientific bodies who have issued statements
stressing the need for action on climate change
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
American Institute of Physics
National Research Council
Woods Hole Research Center
Union of Concerned Scientists
Federal Climate Change Science Program
NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
American Geophysical Union
Geological Society of America
American Chemical Society - (world's largest scientific organization)
Federal Climate Change Science Program - commissioned by Bush!
American Association of State Climatologists
US Geological Survey
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Pew Center on Climate Change
Some scientific bodies who have issued statements
stressing the need for action on climate change
• Rest of World:
• UN Project on Climate Variability and Predictability
• United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
• United Nations Environment Program
• World Meteorological Organization
• International Council on Science
• The Royal Society (UK)
• Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS)
• Geological Society of London
• The Australian Academy of Sciences
• The Institution of Engineers Australia
• The Australian Meteorological And Oceanographic Society
Some scientific bodies who have issued statements
stressing the need for action on climate change
• A number of groups of scientific organisations
have issued ‘Joint Statements’
for example...
Since 2005, the Academies of Science for
the G8+5 countries have called on world
leaders to limit the threat of climate
change. We have advised prompt action
to deal with the causes of climate change
and cautioned that some climate impacts
are inevitable. However, progress in
reducing global greenhouse gas emission
has been slow…
Key vulnerabilities include water
resources, food supply, health, coastal
settlements and some ecosystems
(particularly arctic, tundra, alpine, and
coral reef). The most sensitive regions are
likely to include the Arctic, Africa, small
islands and the densely populated Asian
Climate change is a pressing issue for
today. Action on adaptation is needed
now and failure to respond poses a
significant risk.
Low Carbon Society
The development of a low carbon society
means not merely the replacement of
energy sources with less carbon intensive
ones, but energy conservation as well.
Sustainable consumption requires
fundamental changes in all sectors and
levels of society, including energy-saving
housing, low-carbon transportation and
more efficient industrial processes.
• Call on G8+5 governments …CCS
demonstration plants.
• …improving predictive and adaptive
capacities … supporting the developing
world …
• Take appropriate economic and policy
measures to accelerate transition to a low
carbon society …changes in individual and
national behaviour.
• Promote science and technology cooperation, innovation and leapfrogging, …
• Urge governments to support research on
greenhouse gas reduction technologies and
climate change impacts.
We recognise IPCC as the world’s most
reliable source of information on climate
change and its causes,…
Despite increasing consensus on the
science underpinning predictions of global
climate change, doubts have been
expressed …
We do not consider such doubts justified. the IPCC’s conclusion that it is at
least 90% certain that temperatures will
continue to rise, with average global
surface temperature projected to increase
by between 1.4 and 5.8oC above 1990
levels by 2100. This increase will be
accompanied by rising sea levels, more
intense precipitation events in some
countries, increased risk of drought in
others, and adverse effects on agriculture,
health and water resources. We urge
everyone - individuals, businesses and
governments - to take prompt action to
reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
The balance of the scientific evidence
demands effective steps now to avert
damaging changes to the earth’s climate.
Carbon dioxide concentration is
rising mostly as a result of fossil-fuel
burning and partly from clearing of
vegetation; about 50% of the
enhanced emissions remain in the
atmosphere, …
In the last 50 years atmospheric CO2
concentration has been increasing
at a rate much faster than any rates
observed in the geological record of
the past several thousand years.
Global… temperatures are rising at
a rapid rate to values higher than at
any time in the last 400 (and
probably in the last 1000) years.
Once introduced in the atmosphere,
carbon dioxide remains for at least
a few hundred years and implies a
lengthy guarantee of sustained
future warming.
…there is adequate evidence from observations and
interpretations of climate simulations to conclude that the
atmosphere, ocean, and land surface are warming; that humans
have significantly contributed to this change; and that further
climate change will continue to have important impacts on
human societies, on economies, on ecosystems, and on wildlife
through the 21st century and beyond.
… convergence among emission scenarios and model results suggest strongly that
increasing air temperatures will reduce snowpack, shift snowmelt timing, reduce crop
production and rangeland fertility, and cause continued melting of the ice caps and sea
level rise…
Policy choices in the near future will determine the extent of the impacts of climate
change. Policy decisions are seldom made in a context of absolute certainty. Some
continued climate change is inevitable, and the policy debate should also consider the
best ways to adapt to climate change.
Prudence dictates extreme care in managing our relationship
with the only planet known to be capable of sustaining
human life.
“When climate scientists like me explain to
people what we do for a living we are
increasingly asked whether we "believe in climate
change". Quite simply it is not a matter of belief.
Our concerns about climate change arise from
the scientific evidence that humanity's activities
are leading to changes in our climate. The
scientific evidence is overwhelming.”
• Dr Vicky Pope is the head of climate change
advice at the Met Office Hadley Centre, Wed 11 February 2009
The science is “settled” but...
• Are the public convinced? Obviously not!
• The ‘deniers’ in the media have a strong
The science is “settled” but...
The science is “settled” but...
The science is “settled” but...
• Last sentence in Plimer’s
• “Human stupidity is only
exceeded by God’s mercy,
which is infinite”
• A hint of where he is really
coming from?
• Remember Heartland?
The science is “settled” but...
• Plimer says “the climate
has always changed” – we
just have to get used to it.
• “If we humans, in a fit of
ego, think we can change
these normal planetary
processes, then we need
stronger medication.”
The science is “settled” but...
• Laureate Professor Peter
Doherty’s response:
• Really scary – climate
change can happen easily
and is disastrous for life on
Earth, so why would we
risk triggering another?
The science is “settled” but...
• The actual SCIENCE has almost no presence in
the media.
• Consequently most people just
– “don’t know”
– “aren’t convinced”
– “it’s debatable”
– “don’t want to know”
The science is “settled” but...
• There are heaps of serious looking websites
which claim that climate change is
– not happening
– happening but it’s not us
– happening but we’ll adapt
– a conspiracy between scientists and greenies/lefties
– etc.
The science is “settled” but...
So –
While there are a few scientific ‘sceptics’...
a lot of non-scientific ‘deniers’ ...
not to mention an army of vested interest
lobbyists ...
• the vast majority of climate scientists are
agreed – humans are causing dangerous CC.
Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences of the USA.
Some headings:
On avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system
Global warming: Stop worrying , start panicking?
Tipping elements in the Earth’s climate system
Imprecise probability assessment of tipping points in the climate system (next slide)
Potential tipping points in the climate system (Lenton PNAS Feb 2008)
But this science is not getting
through to either the public
or the politicians!
• How is it going to get through given the very
strong lobby groups against it?
• This is where we come in
• Who else?
The science is “settled” but...
• There is a serious mismatch between the
science and community understanding
• As Hansen said “there is an acute need for
science to inform society about the costs of
failure to address global warming”
• This is a problem unlike any event ever
before encountered in human history
The science is “settled” but...
• This is a problem unlike any ever before
encountered in human history:
1. By the time the problem is ‘obvious’ it will be
way too late to avoid catastrophic change
2. We have always felt there was no way we could
effect the whole Earth system
3. It’s comprehension requires some basic
understanding of science.
4. The changes needed require a BIG RETHINK of
the way we do things
(But definitely NOT ‘turning back the clock’)
The science is “settled” but...
• Consequently, the urgency of the message
does not seem to be getting through.
• It needs the backing of a large group of people
with some sort of credibility
– science teachers maybe?
The science is “settled” but...
• As science teachers we could be the best link
between the scientists and the public.
– and the politicians?
What can we do?
• Educate other teachers – how?
• Educate the public – talk to local parent
groups, write for local papers ...
• Organise a statement signed by science
• Talk to politicians
– as individuals
– as teacher organisations
– on behalf of our students. (With our students?)
• ??
And watch for
Contact me:
My email:
[email protected]