Measuring our carbon footprint

Mary Ann Hitt As science center professionals began gathering in Philadelphia for the ASTC Annual Conference, participants from five continents took part in a day-long workshop, “Measuring Our Carbon Footprint and Fingerprints on Climate Change,” hosted by the Academy of Natural Sciences. ASTC’s International Action on Global Warming (IGLO) initiative invited representatives from various research institutions including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Goddard Space Flight Center, and Appalachia Voices. Speakers presented their latest findings in climate change research and discussed how science centers might best engage the public in learning about the accelerating influence of human activity on the environment.

Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change, discussed his research center’s in-depth polling on public perceptions of climate change in the United States. He noted that while most respondents perceived climate change as a problem, they ranked it as a low priority. “Americans still think,” explained Leiserowitz, “that climate change is going to happen somewhere very far away—a small island far away, but not here, not in my home.”

IGLO also formally unveiled a new National Science Foundation-funded project. Communicating Climate Change pairs 12 U.S. science centers with 12 research institutions across the country to survey public attitudes toward climate change, conduct public education, and foster participation by citizen scientists in real climate research. The project is headed by a collaborative effort between the Yale Climate Project and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

The workshop ended with a lively question-and-answer session where participants and presenters considered new media strategies for educating the public about climate change. Members of the audience were particularly interested in a planned tool of the Communicating Climate Change project, a web-based interactive map that will allow IGLO members and other science organizations to enter data on climate change in their own localities.

About the image: By videoconference, Mary Ann Hitt of Appalachian Voices details how her organization has used the Google Earth application to inform Internet users about mountain top removal. Photo by Christine Ruffo