You, Too, Can Shock a College Class with Climate Science

March 22, 2023

Did a zoom on climate and solutions for a group of college students last night. It underlined what I’ve recognized again for the thousandth time – that for most people, the abc’s of climate are still entirely new territory. So, veterans bear with me, but we all need a reminder.
I showed them the footage above from PBS’s “Earth: An Operator’s Manual”, which describes US government research developing heat seeking missiles, which solidified scientific understanding of the radiative properties of atmospheric gases, and confirmed, to the degree that was needed, the insights of Fourier, Foote, Tyndall, Arrhenius, and Callender.

I underlined for them that we were not talking about the “hole in the ozone layer”, or “acid rain”, things I’ve heard recently confused with climate science. I did not, but probably should have, included a shot of Gilbert Plass’s 1956 paper. Plass had been a lead researcher on the missile development project, and took the next step to summarize the implications.

And probably should have made a link to Frank Capra, who even young people might know from watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” at Christmas time – and the Bell Telephone Science Hour segment he produced in 1958.

Anyway, what came up in the Q and A at the end was how shocked many of the students were to understand how far back a comprehensive understanding of climate science went.
The lesson for science communicators is to keep reminding yourself again and again, that with each warm winter, with each outside-the-envelope weather event, and every new indicator that all is not well, new groups of people are going to be asking questions about climate, people who have never thought seriously about the topic before, and many who have been asleep in the Fox News unreality bubble. Best to have those links available, which is one reason I post them again here.

I also showed my 2016 video which featured archival footage of US Government scientists from the 1980s, projecting phenomena that had up to that time not yet been observed, but turned out to be accurate, as we now observe.

Bear with me, just for grins, I’m posting here yet another piece of the thread from the 1950s.

And as long as we’re at it, evidence that we understood some key things about the solutions part, again from Bell Telephone’s prophetic Science Hour.

And, circling back to Frank Capra again, here he directed Jimmy Stewart in 1938, with a monologue on solar energy from “You Can’t Take it With You” in 1938.


4 Responses to “You, Too, Can Shock a College Class with Climate Science”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I was born in 1960. For much of my early life, the issue of CO2 and global warming was masked by our concern for global thermonuclear war. Another global concern was whether food production* would keep up with population growth.

    *Between the Green Revolution in food production and the rapid drop in birth rates worldwide, this second one was largely addressed, but now catastrophic climate change is threatening to overwhelm the advances of the GR by increasing crop losses.

  2. redskylite Says:

    “Earth: An Operator’s Manual” is an excellent plain English and clear, sensible summary of irrefutable facts – I remember taking a Penn State online course given by Prof. Richard Alley, which included extracts from the E-O-M, which totally convinced me. He certainly had a great passion and remarkable vision of the field and timescales, and a great and interesting way of teaching the science.

    Surprised (and saddened) that it hasn’t been introduced into school educational programs, and students still need bringing up to speed on the subject.

    Thanks from me for taking the time to educate (or even shock), as sadly it is still necessary.

    • redskylite Says:

      Or we could just ignore the EOM, surrender to obfuscation and continue business as usual and leave it to other bright ideas to solve the climate problem – what could possibly go wrong ???
      “These results are welcome news, because much less energy is needed to launch dust from the moon than from Earth. This is important because the amount of dust in a solar shield is large, comparable to the output of a big mining operation here on Earth.”

  3. indy222 Says:

    It was the 1860’s when we first observed that CO2 was a greenhouse gas. Eunice Foote, and later that decade John Tyndall. Guy Callendar in1938 published a paper showing how our rising CO2 emissions were already causing rising climate temperatures. It all goes back a long long way.

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