Carbon dioxide, climate change and donuts
No, this isn’t a post about the carbon impact of donuts, but about using simple analogies to help people understand climate change and to address misinformation regarding the same.
One of the defining moments for me in terms of grasping how humans could be changing the climate came courtesy of (dare I mention his name) Al Gore.
I was trying to get my head around how humans, as plentiful as we are, could have such an impact on the Earth’s atmosphere – after all, it’s pretty freaking big area – or so I thought.
Mr. Gore pointed out that the thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere in relation to the Earth itself is the equivalent of a layer of paint on a billiard ball – in other words, it’s quite thin.
Suddenly the idea of 6.X billion of us on the planet at the time spewing enough crap into the atmosphere to dramatically impact climate all over the world was no longer just possible, but probable.
One of the challenges scientists have is relaying all their complicated knowledge to the masses in a way folks can understand it. Analogies are a great way to do so.
I read another one today in relation to addressing a claim that increasing carbon dioxide levels will benefit plants and as a result, the Amazon forest won’t shrink, but expand. This claim was incorrect on so many levels and can be explained in a very complex manner, but Greg Asner, an ecologist with the Carnegie Institution applied the KISS principle, stating:
“Sure, you can feed someone more and more donuts and they might gain the weight, but cut off their water repeatedly, and gradually increase the temperature in the room, and those poor souls will keel over, just more dramatically with all those extra donuts ingested.”
We need the more complex explanations too; but if more scientists accompany them with analogies like this, it could help win more hearts and minds – and as a result, real climate action.
I think there’s good opportunity for a web site that collates these analogies to help not only scientists in communicating complex concepts, but also for the rest of us to better understand and communicate what we learn to others.
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