American Chemical Society launches new public resource on climate science
4 December 2012
The American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, launched a new web-based resource to enhance understanding and communication of the science underpinning global climate change. Intended for ACS’ more than 164,000 members and others, the American Chemical Society Climate Science Toolkit is available at www.acs.org/climatescience.
The project, more than a year in development, was one of the major initiatives that Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, Ph.D., ACS president, put forth for his year in office. Shakhashiri, the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, described the toolkit as a unique resource, with a sharp focus on the scientific concepts that determine Earth’s climate.
Shakhashiri explained that the ACS is among the major scientific organizations with position statements acknowledging the reality of climate change and recommending action. The ACS policy statement mentions that people need a basic understanding of climate science in order to make informed personal decisions. And it describes climate change education for the public as “essential.” Not explicit in the statement, however, is the responsibility of individual ACS members to take active roles in this education process as both scientists and citizens.
The ACS Climate Science Toolkit discusses greenhouse gases, how the Earth’s heating mechanism works, how the vibrational energy from molecules changes into translational kinetic energy and more. The toolkit also provides a package of “Climate Science Narratives” that can be adapted and personalized when scientists have the opportunity to speak about climate science to other audiences. Those may include students, schoolteachers, college and university faculty, industrial scientists and business leaders, civic and religious groups, professional science and educational organizations, and elected public officials at all levels and in all branches of government.
Work on the toolkit began in 2011, when Shakhashiri formed the ACS Presidential Working Group on Climate Science, a panel of distinguished scientists and science communicators chaired by physical chemist and science educator Jerry A. Bell, Ph.D. The panel worked on two tasks. One was to develop a toolkit that ACS members and others could use for self-education on climate science, to understand the fundamental chemical and physical processes that determine Earth’s climate. The second was an ongoing task of developing strategies for using the toolkit in communicating about climate change to other audiences.
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