Public & Press


How to Communicate on Climate Change - ECSITE Directors Forum 2004, Paris, 19-20 March 2004

One of the most effective ways to communicate science to the public is through the museums and science centres. On March 19-20th, over fifty of the Directors if these organisations met in Paris to discuss how to portray the issues of climate change in their centres. Helping them with their discussions were five scientists, representing aspects of climate change research:

Anver Ghazi, Global Change programme of the European Commission (Brussels/Belgium)
Hervé Le Treut, Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (France)
Heinrich Miller, Alfred-Wegener-Institute of Polar Research (Germany)
Dario Camuffo, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (Italy)
John Grace, University of Edinburgh (UK)

On the first day, short talks were given to represent the range of research activity. Michel Claessens presented the Commission's strategy on Communicating European Research. Camuffo has analysed sea level changes in Venice by comparison of the water level in paintings by Caneletto with the present day. Grace presented an overview of the research in CarboEurope, along with a film of the project showing activities and data collection.

The meeting was held at La Villette, in the cité des sciences & de l´industrie, which is Europe´s largest science centre, and which currently houses a hands-on computer simulation of climate change, in which visitors can test the consequences of various political decisions relating to power policy. The results are projected onto four walls in a spectacular way. The scientists were invited to try this out, and to comment.

On the second day, the participants formed smaller groups for real dialogue about how to present these complex issues to the public. They were joined by Roy Semper, of the Exploratorium in San Francisco , who has just been awarded the Pirelli Prize for his newly created web site on climate change. There were many novel ideas. Perhaps visitors to the science centre should be given the option to absorb the carbon dioxide emitted on their journey to and from the exhibition by planting trees? Shall we warm the visitors? Shall we warm wax models of our politicians? We have to find ways to excite and inspire a generation of citizens, to connect science with society, and, in a democratic society, to make sure people are well-informed on environmental issues so that they perceive the links between development, life-style and climate.



updated by Yvonne Hofmann,