Monday, November 26, 2012

Climate Change and Science Literacy

UNEP Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report Finds Climate Change Goals Growing More Elusive:
Global greenhouse-gas emissions already have passed the point where the worst effects of global warming could be averted, and they are still rising, according to the third annual United Nations report on the so-called emissions gap.

Some countries have made pledges to help reverse this trend by lowering their emissions. However, the report by the U.N. Environment Programme warns that the gap between these pledges and reductions necessary to cap average global warming at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2020 continues to widen.
We, as citizens lack the understanding and the will to make the changes necessary in our own lives. "Our" government is also unwilling to do what needs to be done. Over. It won't just be our children and grandchildren that will suffer, we all already are. It's true that no particular storm or weather event can be attributed to man made climate change but the science is pretty clear that we are already feeling it in our obviously changing weather patterns.

Which brings me to my next topic: science literacy. We are in this position because science is slow and takes time and because people do not understand the basic scientific process. Without an understanding of how science works people are easier to manipulate on issues that require such an understanding. In this case various global industries that have benefited from the continued exploitation of fossil fuels have actively sought to confuse the public to protect their profit source.

It is unfortunate that capitalism does not prioritize the public good but that's another topic for another time. Suffice it so say that capitalism has, thus far in it's history, demonstrated that it does not seem to be able of co-existing with the needs of our planet's ecosystems. Regardless of that discussion, we know that these industries have spent many millions of dollars to convince the governments and people in general that the science of climate change is uncertain. They have been very effective at exploiting a general lack of understanding of the specifics of climate science and science in general.

If we are to move forward we have to build a process and a system for teaching basic science literacy. At the very least we need for the adult citizens of our planet to have a basic understanding of the scientific method. Though that is just one part of minimal understanding it is fundamental and is the starting point for giving people the tools to evaluate the information (or disinformation) that is available.
To that end folks have been working in recent years on developing a global network of science cafes. In Madison County our little discussion group, fondly referred to as the Geek Parade has decided to open itself up a bit to the general public and will be making an effort at more organized, public discussions. We'll be getting started in January 2013!

We have a long way to go. Science literacy in the U.S. is low as evidenced by such indicators as acceptance of evolution which is one of the lowest of all western nations, 40%. I'm excited that we've gotten the ball rolling in our county, but it is distressing that there are only 4 such groups in the state. Well, there are 4 that are a part of the Science Cafe network. There may be others which meet that I am, at the moment, unaware of that are not listed. Certainly there are various other groups such as astronomical societies that advance science literacy but it is not really the broad-based organized effort that is needed.

Baby steps.

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