IT’S National Science Week, when Australians, for a brief period, forget who their Prime Minister is and acknowledge the need for objective, critically assessed, evidence-based decision-making in society.
(Evidence for making the crack about Tony Abbott? I give you exhibit A – his considered opinion on wind turbines after riding past one, once, on a pushbike: ‘‘Up close, they’re ugly, they’re noisy and they may have all sorts of other impacts,’’ he said, while also keeping an open mind about whether Elvis is actually dead.)
But back to science.
A helpful website told me that National Science Week is an Australian government initiative, established in 1997, that provides us with an opportunity to ‘‘acknowledge the contributions of Australian scientists to the world of knowledge’’, unless they’re climate-change scientists in which we defer to Tony Abbott’s assessment that climate change is absolute crap.
(Evidence for making another crack about Tony Abbott? I give you exhibit B – his statement in 2009 that climate change is ‘‘absolute crap’’, and just about anything he’s said and done about coal, carbon, fossil fuels and renewable energy since then.)
Across Australia this week more than one million people, according to the National Science Week website, have taken part in science-related activities, including Tony Abbott, who announced the winners of the Prime Minister’s Science Awards.
I spent a few hours researching an elaborate composting system for the garden – who knew you could compost your vacuum cleaner’s dust-bag contents?
(And there was no crack about Tony Abbott in that statement, unless you also see the funny side of it, or the irony, take your pick.)
I was one of those million people who took part in a science-related activity or two.
I spent a productive few hours researching, and implementing, an elaborate composting system for the garden – who knew you could compost your vacuum cleaner’s dust-bag contents? – and reading reports about climate change so that I can at least try to make informed contributions to public debate on the subject.
(Evidence for unintentional crack at Tony Abbott because I’ve highlighted the need for ‘‘informed contributions’’ on the climate-change issue? Please see just about anything he’s said on the subject since the ‘‘absolute crap’’ incident of 2009.)
The Australian Academy of Science website has an excellent document, updated in February this year, called ‘‘The Science of Climate Change: Questions and Answers’’, which covers answers to nine key questions that are regularly raised in public debates.
They include ‘‘what is climate change?’’, ‘‘how has climate changed?’’, ‘‘how are extreme events changing?’’,‘‘what are the uncertainties and implications?’’ and ‘‘what does science say about options to address climate change?’’
The document was necessary because the academy believed ‘‘It is important that Australian climate scientists explain the science, including its uncertainties and implications, to the Australian community’’.
Academy president Andrew Holmes stressed the processes involved with producing the document.
There was a working group led by three of Australia’s leading climate scientists, an oversight committee of scientists who reviewed the first group’s work, and another 12 independent climate scientists who provided further work.
In other words, the document was not the work of an individual coming up with wild ideas of his own (any crack at Tony Abbott in that statement was unintended), but is the measured and considered opinion, based on evidence, of Australia’s leading climate-change scientists.
National Science Week doesn’t finish until Sunday, so support an Australian scientist today by visiting the Australian Academy of Science website.
And if you’re really keen, take the time to visit the US National Academy of Sciences website and its February report about words we’re going to hear more about as the global climate-change debate heats up – geoengineering, including albedo modification.
(Albedo is a measure of the reflectivity of the earth’s surface, with ice and snow having a high albedo.)
Around the world today there are people seriously thinking that chemically brightening clouds or scattering sulphur chemicals into the stratosphere to deflect the sun are better options to deal with climate change than, say, putting up wind turbines or supporting renewable energy to reduce global carbon emissions.
Who wants ugly wind turbines when you can spend billions scattering chemicals into the air in a process described by a National Academy of Sciences committee as ‘‘irrational and irresponsible’’?
But glass half full. In 2006, a climate scientist predicted ‘‘sky whitening’’ if we opt for stratospheric sulphur scattering, but ‘‘also colourful sunsets and sunrises would occur’’.