Climate Compass Blog

Climate Debate in Word Clouds: The Conflicting Discourse of Climate Change

Like it or not, climate change is now part of the “culture wars.” Like abortion, gun control, and health care, climate change divides conversations along political battle lines of left versus right. But if you listen closely to what is being said, you will find that people are talking past each other, engaged in a debate that has little to do with an evaluation of climate science. Instead, it is a clash about values, beliefs, and worldviews. Opinions are based largely on ideological filters that people use to understand complex issues, influenced strongly by the cultural groups of which they are a part and the opinions of thought-leaders and pundits whom they trust. The arguments are constructed around the frames by which people view the science, not the science itself.

Learning about Our Risks from Hurricane Irene

So how bad was Hurricane Irene? Some commentators seem to think Irene didn’t match up to the media, yet  preliminary assessments suggest Irene will be one of the top 10 costliest hurricanes ever in the United States. New Yorkers are indeed fortunate that the worst case scenario did not play out in their fair city, but that doesn’t mean there were no worst case scenarios elsewhere.

The worst fears about wind intensity did not play out, but a different devastating outcome did occur: Historic inland flooding across a huge swath of the interior Northeast. From New Jersey to Vermont, as much as 12 inches of rain fell in a matter of hours, swelling creeks and streams to well beyond flood stage. Paterson, New Jersey, is still under several feet of water five days after the storm passed and many residents have not be able to return home. Thirteen towns in Vermont were cut off from the outside world, and relief workers were unable to reach one town for days. More than 250 Vermont roadways are damaged and 30 bridges were destroyed.

Hurricane Irene: Climate Connection?

“Don’t wait, don’t delay, we all hope for the best and prepare for the worst.” President Obama’s statement on Hurricane Irene urges the public to take precautions before one of the most significant northeast hurricanes in recent history. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for much of the Atlantic seaboard, including coastal areas of New York City. All lanes of one major highway in New Jersey are headed in one direction only – west. The safest course of action is always to get out of the way of an approaching storm – to minimize the risk of harm when you can.

The 2011 Texas Drought in a Historical Context

Texas climatologists have recently stated that the ongoing dry spell is the worst one-year drought since Texas rainfall data started being recorded in 1895. The majority of the state has earned the highest rating of “exceptional” drought and the remaining areas are not far behind with “extreme” or “severe” ratings by the U.S. Drought Monitor. So far, Texas has only received 6.5 inches of the 16 inches that has normally accumulated by this time of year.

Help Make an Impact Win a CLASSY Award

“All kids growing up in this generation know how they’re impacting the environment. We’re teaching today’s kids about recycling and being responsible.”
- Shawn Kerr, eighth-grade science teacher at Alcoa Middle School in Alcoa, TN.

Fifteen schools participated in the Make an Impact: Change Our 2morrow (MAI CO2) schools’ challenge, an educational energy conservation competition led by the Center’s Make an Impact (MAI) initiative in partnership with Alcoa. Mr. Kerr’s words sum up the program’s outcome, in which Make an Impact, a corporate employee and community engagement program, expanded the reach of its energy efficiency message to middle and high schools in five Alcoa communities across four states this spring.

Alcoa Middle School principle Jim Kirk holds up the $1,000 check that the school won for being named a regional runner-up in the MAI: CO2 schools’ challenge.

We had high hopes for the MAI CO2 campaign, but our success at engaging a younger audience in acting on energy efficiency far exceeded our expectations. In one month, we reached more than 8,000 students/parents/teachers and motivated them to calculate their carbon footprint with the Make an Impact calculator. The program wasn’t just about students realizing their impact on the earth; we also tried to teach and empower these young individuals to make a difference – by saving energy, money, and the planet. Between March 14 and April 11, participants identified more than 14.4 million pounds of potential carbon savings and an estimated $1.75 million in energy savings.