Environmentalists Must Bridge The Science Knowledge Gap

Amidst the recent strange political environment, the job of an environmentalist has become increasingly arduous.

In the first few weeks of the fall semester teaching Environmental Biology at Mountain View College, I’ve noticed an increase in political questions lending themselves to lengthy explanations. But, in 16-week courses, I have an opportunity to start from the bottom and work understanding in, all the way to the top. The class starts with comprehending the foundations of science, and how science published in journals makes it’s way into the news and the public view. What you read in the paper, on the internet, or listen to on the radio is a minuscule representation of scientific journal articles published daily.

Understanding how science works is the base for understanding how science changes. This foundation is important in today’s politics. Do you agree with President Trump that CO2 is not a main contributing factor to increasing climate change? Check the science. Don’t check any outlet, check the source: scientific journals. Keep your critical thinking glasses on when reading articles. There is no debate that climate change is happening and it’s increased by our human activities which release CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the environment.

Thousands of scientific studies were pooled to show that 97 percent of the scientific community is in agreement that climate change is happening and human activities are causing an increase in the change. How do our Dallas County residents measure up to this understanding? A study doClimate Opinion Map ne by Yale University (2014) found that 69 percent of adults in Dallas County believe global warming is happening and 52 percent think global warming is mostly caused by human activities. These nubers seem low until a comparison is made to our next door neighbor. In Tarrant County, 59 percent
believe global warming is happening and 45 percent think it’s caused by human activities.

The lag in understanding from the scientific community to the general public is disheartening, it’s a science knowledge gap.  As environmentalists we need to continue to bring awareness to political leaders and businesses who understand and utilize science to shape policy and economics. These leaders continue to push for a sustainable world, despite our current presidential falsehoods.

Locally, Mayor Mike Rawlings is part of the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, a network of U.S. cities working together to develop innovative action on mitigating and adapting to climate change. President Trump may pull out support for the Paris Agreement which put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C. If he does, several Mayors around the country are preparing to continue the climate fight and enact climate regulations in line with the Paris Agreement. Mayor Rawlings better be one of them.

Businesses using sustainability to add to the economy are scattered throughout the DFW area. On a grand scale, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg just visited Dallas and his new data factory outside of Fort Worth, which is powered by 100 percent wind. The U.S. Green Building Council has a strong presence in North Texas and big construction projects continue to roll out with high LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certifications. Several large hotels (Omni and Fairmont Dallas) are striving for environmentally friendly options such as rooftop beehives, and renovations designed to increase energy efficiency. Small businesses are providing a green landscape in North Texas, from green car dealerships to green cleaners. There are more and more environmentally friendly options for consumers to choose from.

The current political climate is led by “alternate facts,” fake news and questionable sources. These news sources lack the checks and balances of the scientific community. Science shows we are negatively impacting our climate. Support the leaders and businesses who understand that this knowledge is vital to our future. We must move forward from this base knowledge and work to reduce our impact on the environment.

As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly. 

Visit the “Links to Love” tab for some good public science news sources.

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