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Transcript
Climate Change –
Could Science Teachers
have a role?
Keith Burrows
AIP Education Committee (Vic)
Physics Conference Feb 2009
YES !
Keith Burrows
AIP Education Committee (Vic)
Physics Conference Feb 2009
Why?
• Climate change is the most significant threat
human civilization has ever faced.
• In order to appreciate this, at least some
understanding of the science of climate
change is required.
• A huge public education campaign is needed.
• (as distinct from the mis-education campaign
prevalent in some parts of the media...
Herald Sun 19 Dec 2008
Why?
• Role of scientists in the climate debate
• “These stark conclusions about the threat posed
by global climate change and implications for
fossil fuel use are not yet appreciated by
essential governing bodies
… In our view, there is an acute need for science
to inform society about the costs of failure to
address global warming, because of a
fundamental difference between the threat
posed by climate change and most prior global
threats.”
J Hansen et al (2007)
Why?
• The conclusion from:
• Dangerous human-made interference with climate: a GISS
modelE study J Hansen et al
• In Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 7, 2287–2312,
2007 www.atmos-chem-phys.net/7/2287/2007/
• Authors from:
• NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Columbia University
Earth Institute, Sigma Space Partners LLC, Department of Earth
and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, Department
of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Columbia
University, Clean Air Task Force, Boston, Goddard Space Flight
Center, Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de
l’Environnement, Department of Geology, Yale University,
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, Argonne National Laboratory.
Why?
• Dealing with climate change will require
massive adjustments to the way we do things.
• Most of these adjustments are based on
science, so...
• people need to understand at least the basic
science.
Why US?
• Science teachers are one of the few groups in
the community who are:
• Reasonably aware of the science.
• Able to communicate it to a general audience.
Why US?
• Climate scientists are generally:
• Too busy doing their science.
• Not necessarily good at communicating with
the lay public.
Why US?
If we don’t
do it, who
else will?
Why US?
• Other groups talking about climate change:
• The media – but usually trying to make a
‘debate’ out of it.
5 out of 6
support Bolt’s
denier-ism
Why US?
• Other groups talking about climate change:
• ‘Activists’ – often not their real agenda.
Why US?
• Other groups talking about climate change:
• ‘Concerned citizens’ – well intentioned,
often not well informed.
Why US?
• 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
matters:
• the link between CO2 emissions and CC
• energy and greenhouse emissions
• ways to reduce CO2 emissions
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.
•
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•
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•
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Some scientific bodies who have issued statements
stressing the need for action on climate change
USA:
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
(UNFCCC)
• 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
mega-deltas.
Adaptation
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.
Conclusions
• 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.
...support 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
guardian.co.uk, Wed 11 February 2009
The science is “settled” but...
• Are the public convinced? Obviously not!
• The ‘deniers’ in the media have a strong
presence...
The science is “settled” but...
• “Satellite data indicates the southern hemisphere has recorded
no warming”
• “When will the biggest scientific fraud in history fall apart?”
• “The [CPRS] is a non-solution to a non-problem” (Bob Carter)
• “In the last Ice Age the CO2 levels were 4000 ppm”
• “heat travels from hot to cold so the colder CO2 cannot warm
the surface below”
• “The telling thing about the global warming faith is that it’s
preached almost entirely by hypocrites” (AB)
The science is “settled” but...
• Ironically, the deniers get mileage from countering
exaggerated claims by activists.
• It is important to stress
the trend within a high
natural variability
The science is “settled” but...
• The actual SCIENCE has almost no presence in
the media.
• Maybe it’s a bit complicated...
See notes below for explanation
See notes below for explanation
See notes below for explanation
See notes below for explanation
See notes below for explanation
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...
•
•
•
•
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.
The science is “settled” but...
• Would you get on this aeroplane if 9 out of 10
engineers said there were dangerous cracks in
the wings and 1 said they didn’t matter?
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 event 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 (rather than law or
economics!)
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
teachers?
• Talk to politicians
– as individuals
– as teacher organisations
– on behalf of our students. (With our students?)
• ??
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