In the wake of large ground gained by Republicans in the United States Congress, hundreds of scientists are mobilizing to speak out on climate change in an effort to provide the facts about an issue that is a hot topic in the country.
“I think it is important for scientists to assure that the public and policy makers have a clear view of what scientific findings are and what the implications of those findings are,” said Princeton University scientist Michael Oppenheimer. “To the extent that some members of the new majority in the House have exhibited a contrarianism to science, I think it is a good way to have a scientific community there to help keep its facts clear.”
This mobilization comes not only in the wake of the Congressional appointments, but also as a result of a study by Yale University released last month that showed that only 57% of those surveyed knew what the greenhouse effect was, and only 45% understood that carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere,
One team of about 40 scientists is being gathered as a “rapid response team” to enter into the media environment to try and correct misinformation about global warming, said organizer John Abraham, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota.
“We did not form this to take a stance against climate change skeptics. However if a skeptical argument is put forward that doesn’t agree with science, we will refute that,” he said. “This is in response to a real disconnect between what is known in the scientific community and the consensus among the general public. Ninety-seven percent of top scientists are in agreement, but the public is split about 50-50.”
Another group organized by the American Geophysical Union consisting of about 700 scientists will be on call, as they were for reporters covering the 2009 UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen.
“AGU has been working over the past year on how to provide this service once again in association with the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico,” which takes place November 29-December 10, the group said on its website.
But not all scientists are behind the idea of wading into the political and media spectrums.
“Scientific disagreement on a subject as complex as climate change is going to go on forever, and it should. Disagreement sparks scientific progress,” said Judith Curry, who chairs the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technolog, who has not joined either initiative. “Trying to quell scientific disagreement because you are concerned about diminishing the political will to act on your preferred policy is bad for both the science and the policy.”
Either way, the American people are going to be hearing a lot about climate change in the months to come.