The recent shenanigans dubbed “Climategate” made me even more aware of the need for clear climate information. Here in Indiana, a state that depends on fossil fuel – especially coal – we can’t rely on hearsay and political pontificating to make good decisions about our future. So where do we look for information that’s objective, scientific, and up-to-date?
Snuggle Up With a Scientist
Thanks to the Internet, scientific data on climate change (usually found in on-line journals and magazines) is accessible to anybody – just be smart about your sources. The best scientific information undergoes rigorous peer review before it is published. Peer-reviewed data means that other scientists scrutinize it for accuracy, methods, and logical arguments. (Nature is a peer-reviewed journal that often tackles climate topics). But if snuggling up with a scientific journal doesn’t appeal to you, a good place to start is USA Today’s Web site. It provides a comprehensive index of climate sources for laypeople and educators (www.usatoday.com/weather/wteach.htm
Another source for solid information is the biggest publisher in town: the U. S. government. Government agencies hoard all kinds of information. Check out the Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov
), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (www.noaa.gov
), and the U. S. Department of Energy (www.energy.gov
) for anything from reports between agencies to helpful consumer factsheets.
The National Climatic Data Center, part of NOAA, just launched an exciting new Web site, www.climate.gov
, designed specifically to answer questions about climate research. I love the short video clips of scientists explaining their data – and why we should care about it – in everyday language.
What Do We Know, Anyway?
Climate science is not set in stone. Most scientists agree that gas, oil, and coal combustion increases the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – that’s not a debate anymore. Data recorded by the National Atmosphere and Oceanic Administration reveals that “seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 and the 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1995”. (For a credible summation about what scientists know and don’t know about global warming, visit www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/globalwarming.html
). The debate comes when scientists, politicians, and ordinary citizens alike argue how much human activity has sped up global warming, and what the consequences of that warming will be on earth’s climate patterns.
Keep Looking, Keep Talking
How do we Hoosiers make sense of the good, the bad, and the ugly of the worldwide climate conversation? We need to get informed, think critically and share our concerns with each other in open dialogue. Debate fuels conflict; listening and learning builds understanding. But listening is not enough – we also need to act on what we know. To preserve our beautiful state (one of the world’s best –kept secrets, I’m convinced), we need to make bold, informed decisions that benefit the people, creatures, and natural resources we need to live.
This article appeared recently in the Plymouth Pilot News, Hoosier Habitat column.