sarahkeenihan

Degrees of change

In September 2014 on September 10, 2014 at 9:53 pm

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Sarah: I’m absolutely delighted to feature as author of the Adelaide Hills Magazine Upfront article in the Spring edition. 

With the title ‘Degrees of Change’, the piece looks at climate change through the eyes of producers in the Adelaide Hills. I talked to wine makers, fruit growers and Bureau of Meteorology Senior Meteorologist and Climatologist Dr Darren Ray to gather anecdotes and evidence. 

While I clearly can’t reproduce the entire piece (the magazine website is here if you’re interested), here’s a breakout section from it in which I present my thoughts in the first person:

Hello, I’m Sarah and I’m a scientist.

After training in the fields of immunology and reproduction, I’m well-versed in the history, theory and practice of science. I understand scientific methods and know how results are interpreted. I know science has strengths and weaknesses; I see its beauty and its flaws. With all this taken into account, I believe science is the best tool we’ve got to carry out objective – that is, unbiased – asking and answering of questions relating to our world. 

I’ve never specifically studied climate change. I don’t know all the statistics relating to this topic, I don’t have intimate knowledge of each international report into climate change. But I do believe it is happening. Why? Because it’s people just like me who undertake exploration of climate change, dedicating their working lives to asking questions and collecting data. Simply put, I trust scientists to measure aspects of climate change and report it accurately. I do not believe there is any plausible agenda for them to do otherwise. 

But it’s clear not everyone thinks the same way as I do. Skeptics are a vocal part of our landscape, and have developed well-honed arguments to counter the evidence that climate change exists. 

They introduce doubt by saying that all scientists don’t agree on climate change data (more than 95% of scientists agree on climate change). They say errors have been found in reports around climate change (some errors, yes, but that’s science – the majority of reports are solid). They suggest that in Australia and other countries extreme events are just part of the natural way of things (extreme weather events like droughts, heat-waves, tropical storms and bizarrely even frosts are now more common). The skeptics argue that carbon dioxide is natural and that volcanoes emit more C02 than we ever could (volcanoes contribute less than 1%). 

To me, the evidence is clear that we are currently locked into a phase of warming that is due to emissions from human activity since the industrial revolution. Such emissions include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other gases that trap heat in our atmosphere. Unless we reduce emissions, this warming pattern will continue long into the future. 

So the pressing question isn’t whether it exists – but how we will deal with it. 

 

[image thanks to badjonni on flickr]

 

 

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