Climate Up Close is a very small, recently formed organization trying to bridge the gap between scientists and concerned citizens. It consists of 4 young scientists (two PhDs and two grad students) and a communications strategist. They’ve generated an event which they offer to community organizations. Judging from their website, I think they’ve presented their program about a dozen times. They volunteer their time and accept contributions to cover travel expenses.
I attended a presentation on January 4. It was sponsored by a religious congregation in central Philadelphia. Publicity was scanty but the turnout was high, with about 80 people in attendance. By way of introduction, comments by three prominent non-scientists (2 politicians and an author) were shown. Each was judged to be WRONG based on the best currently available science. Climate Up Close wants to improve the quality of public discourse on this topic.
In the first 45 minutes, four topics were covered:
- The state of climate science. What’s “settled”? What’s open to question? Levels of confidence.
- Climate Context – history
- Climate Change – what contributes?
- Impacts, projections and modeling – sea level rise, storm intensity, heat waves, etc. “Tipping points” and instabilities.
After this fast moving lecture, questions were solicited. The Q/A format was to collect questions, group them and then let the scientists respond. Inevitably, some concepts came up that may have strained non-scientists, like “signal-to-noise ratio” and the distinction between water vapor and water in the gas phase (atmosphere). By and large, I felt the explanations were admirably clear. The speakers resisted the temptation to branch out beyond their expertise, into fields like economics. (I wanted to ask demographic questions.)
I didn’t blow my cover, keeping my Masters level background in atmospheric chemistry to myself. Regrettably, I was unable to stay for informal discussion afterwards. I had plenty of questions.
I was accompanied by a non-scientist friend. I think she followed much of the science, but her primary reaction was enjoyment of the energy and confidence shown by the presenters.
Climate Up Close has a excellent web site, but I couldn’t find them on Facebook.
Climate Up Close is a wonderful example of how people can reach out in the public interest without a big budget or lots of organizational structure. I’m very grateful that these highly educated specialists are making the effort to talk to ALL of us.