Some of Australia’s leading climate scientists from the ACE CRC and the Australian Antarctic Division have begun a series of community forums designed to encourage a conversation between scientists and the public about climate change. Called The Climate Conversations, the forums began on the NSW mid-north coast in September last year and will continue in Tasmania in 2011 (see dates below).
One of the scientists, glaciologist Dr Tessa Vance, said so far the panel had faced "interesting, tough questions".
"Rather than preaching to the converted we wanted to develop a talk that would encourage the members of the public who aren’t completely convinced about climate change to come along," Dr Vance said. "It is about providing them with the information that we have, and then letting them do what they want with that information.’’
She said local councils in Tasmania had also responded enthusiastically when approached. "I think this really demonstrates the community’s thirst for factual information direct from the scientists." During the presentation the scientists use a 2000-year-old ice core from Antarctica to help explain the history of climate change.
Many audience members in NSW had seen inundation maps and were specifically worried about sea level rise, although a range of concerns around climate change had been expressed.
The Climate Conversations will take place in Latrobe on March 3, Richmond on February 17, Rosny on March 17 and Lauderdale on March 31. Dates are still under discussion for the Tasman Peninsula, Southern Midlands and Break O Day local government areas, and enquiries have been received from Kentish, King Island Council and Huon Valley councils. Some venues are planning a session for high school students before the general public sessions in the evening.
The four scientists taking part are:
- Dr Tas van Ommen, leader of the ACE Cryospheres program and Principal Research Scientist in charge of the Ice Core Climate History research group with the Australian Antarctic Division.
- Dr Tessa Vance, ACE glaciologist
- Joel Pedro, ACE glaciologist
- Rob King, Australian Antarctic Division marine biologist
The scientists have held The Climate Conversations so far in Port Stephens, Old Bar, Lake Macquarie, Forster and Launceston, with the aim of answering the public’s questions on climate change. They also spoke to Year 8 school students in Port Stephens.
Coming up in 2011:
February 17 - Richmond (hosted by Clarence City Council)
March 3 - Mersey/Latrobe (hosted by Latrobe Council)
March 17 - Rosny (hosted by Clarence City Council)
March 31 - Lauderdale (hosted by Clarence City Council)
Session times and venues will be posted closer to the events.