Climate Science and the Public Interest
From the vantage point of academic science, it is difficult to believe that anyone could doubt the reality of climate change brought on by man’s activities. Yet, study after study confirms that many people in America are dismissive of the threat from global warming, convinced that -if it occurs at all- it will happen to someone else and that it will be felt more acutely somewhere else. For example, the Six Americas Project coordinated by Yale University set out to evaluate American attitudes towards climate change. In their 2010 snapshot, sixteen percent of those polled were characterized as “Dismissive - global change is not happening and is probably a hoax” (a number that had doubled since 2008). Only ten percent were “Alarmed – Global warming is happening, caused by humans, and a serious and urgent threat “ (a category that has gone down from 18% in 2008).
The world is urbanizing rapidly. Last year, more of the world’s population lived in urban areas (54%) than in rural areas, and more than twice as many people in 2014 lived in urban areas than in rural areas than did in 1950. Although climate change is a global phenomenon, based on this distribution of population as well as the fact that many urban areas are close to sea level, and thus will bear the brunt of rising seas and more intense storms, climate change’s effects will be felt more acutely in these urban areas. Of course, cities are also responsible for a large portion of greenhouse gas emissions (in excess of 75% by one estimate). Thus, to bring awareness of climate change to the human dimension, it is imperative to target these urban populations and provide them information and data that will guide their acceptance of the reality of a changing climate and influence their daily decisions.
We, and others, have explored the utility of inexpensive non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) sensors for ambient measurements of CO2 concentrations. We are working towards a demonstration project of a city-wide, greenhouse gas sensor network based on these sensors. We are also developing a state of the art, Greenhouse Gas Sensor Facility on the roof of the recently opened Science and Engineering Hall. Data from all of the sensors are collected onto a server and are web accessible.
To learn more about this project, please visit the home page of the luftSinn network.