Global Warming – Science Communicators response?

‘Global warming is the biggest problem facing us this century ?? bigger even than the problems of global terrorism.’ ??? Sir David King, Chief Scientific advisor to the British Government.

So claims the Channel 4 Series War on Terra

The first report from the Climate Prediction at Home project show climate sensitivities of between 2 and 11 degrees C – much greater than the range of 2-6 degrees C previously accepted.

James Lovelock, father of the GAIA theory, claims that we only have ten years until massive climate change will be unavoidable.

Many ecological philosophies highlight the underlying fallacy of industrial society – that infinite growth is possible on a finite base of natural resources. An attack on Capitalism itself.

In this climate of ecological gloom, what should our response as science communicators be?

What practical steps can we take to bring about a major change in the way Humankind relates to its home planet?



5 comments


    markbanerji

    January 31, 2005

    Perhaps we could join the “Union of concerned Scientists”:http://www.ucsusa.org/ , “write to our MP”:http://www.faxyourmp.com/, but in the meantime we can read “Kim Stanley Robinson’s”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Stanley_Robinson latest science thriller “Forty signs of Rain”:http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0007148860/qid=1107207484/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl/202-6462816-4647046.

    Robert Andrews

    January 31, 2005

    Also acknowledge the possibility that global warming may be
    influenced by unprecedented sunspot activity as well as carbon
    dioxide, challenging science to provee the latter beyond doubt.

    Mike Reddy

    January 31, 2005

    Sorry, Robert Andrews, but this smacks a little too much of the
    USA policy on global warming, which basically states “Show us a
    fired planet and we will (if we weren’t already dead) admit we
    were wrong. The British Government did it too with BSE when
    Gummer famously tried to “feed a hamburger to his daughter”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/369625.stm

    At the time, I recall “The absence of evidence is not the evidence
    of absence” meaning to say that without a corpse showing a
    throroughly rotted brain, due to BSE, it was still wise to ban beef
    exports, etc. His daughter did spit out the thing for the TV
    cameras though, and I hope Gummer slept less soundly after it
    all came out; can you imagine what it would have been like if she
    had contracted variant CJD?

    But that phrase ‘evidence of absence’ took a major blow a few
    years later, when it was used to “say almost the exact opposite”:http://www.fishkite.com/notes/Absence%20of%20evidence%20is%20not%20evidence%20of%20absence.htm in relation to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in
    the Iraq fiasco!

    It is a wonderful term, “often debated”:http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/2002/2/022abs.html and particularly
    topical regarding Global Warming! Look, let me make it clear:

    1) The weather is doing weird things.

    2) There are measurable changes in the atmosphere that have
    been caused by humans

    3) This is the ONLY planet that supports life in the solar system

    4) We have nowhere else to go.

    I would rather be cautious and alive than have a strong economy
    and have no place for my children. Or should we force feed them
    greenhouse gasses and carry on regardless?

    Rob Miller

    January 31, 2005

    As a science communicator I am interested in the factors that are preventing practical action being taken to combat the causes of global warming.

    Let us say that James Lovelock et al are correct and we have just ten years to react to this crisis.

    Then it seems to me that our strategy must be stated in terms that the dominant global capitalist society understands.

    Would Eco-tax make the widespread use of nuclear power economically more attractive quite apart from its effect in reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

    Could a public who are already familiar with ‘lean burn engines’ in cars be more open to the idea of ‘lean burn’ energy efficient housing – that uses hi-tech solutions to solve environmental problems.

    Thus combating the fear that eco-friendly solutions mean a return to lo-tech living and a loss of our ‘modern conveniences’.

    Eco-philosophies tell us that we must change the way we live. I am interesting in finding the method that is most likely to persuade westernised society to actually do this.

    Mike Reddy

    January 31, 2005

    The problem with talking in the language that capitalists
    understand is it is not a language that can make sense: Where is
    the profit in cutting back, making do and minimising
    consumption, when all these things are anathema to our
    economy?

    Using the economic language is what allowed the ludicrous
    system of carbon emission trading, where one clean company
    gets to sell its ‘quota’ of pollution to another, so things can go
    on as before. It’s double think. It’s like telling a flatlander about
    3D. It’s bloody stupid.

    Yes, their marketing people might be able to visualise it, but
    they won’t see a use for it. People hanging off a cliff, see the
    value of rope, but not before. Brinkmanship is probably what will
    be needed, if it is not too late already. Even a Tsunami has not
    rattled Bush’s cage that much. And technofix (the use of energy
    guzzling tech to fix tech’s problems), which is popular in Japan,
    where they consider it a susteainable plan to build robots to
    look after an aging population, fix pollution (where they get a
    new TV every 4 months!) and so on, just doesn’t balance out.

    The only way to save the planet is to do less and use less. If
    previous experience is anything to go by – we still wage war,
    even though we’ve had a few really big ones – there is no way to
    do it on the big scale. And even willing goverments cannot
    impose it. People just have to do it individually, and hope that
    others join them.

    We heat our house with wood fires, and vegetable sourced oil. We are currently investigating a water turbine and/or a heat exchanger for the stream that runs through the garden; sadly, we don’t get enough sun for solar panels, or wind for turbines, to be that viable, but if we ever get the spare cash, we will get them anyway. We do not have a huge car, but sadly do run two cars, even though they are diesel, which can be grown as a vegetable crop with a few adjustments. We send our kids to school on the bus (economies of scale) rather than brave the school run. We recycle and more importantly reuse: we have several composters as well as a wormery, so paper, cardboard, food scraps, recyclable plastic and metal are all accounted for. Only non-recyclable plastic ends up in the bin, and we try to avoid buying things that use them needlessly, or use those containers for other things, rather than chucking them. We walk to the local shop, rather than drive to the supermarket, unless it is a big shop. We grow a lot of vegetables in the garden.

    It’s what we’re trying. And even we are not very good
    at it.

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