New Potential Teaching Resource: “Climate Feedback” Tool

Climate_Feedback_logo_sDr. Emmanuel Vincent, a tropical cyclone expert at the University of California, has established a resource to facilitate assessment by climate scientists of the scientific soundness of online content focused on climate science, and to communicate the results to more general audiences. The Climate Feedback tool affords climate scientists the opportunity to use an online resource called Hypothesis to conduct detailed annotations of articles and other online resources on climate change, which can then be shared online. To date, a group of 40 scientists from institutions such as MIT, the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre, Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Harvard, the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have joined together to critique pieces from an array of sources, including the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Guardian, The Hill, and even the Pope’s recent environmental encyclical.

This could be an excellent teaching tool for climate change courses. One possible approach would be to assign some of the pieces analyzed by the Climate Feedback team in their un-annotated form, and then ask the students to read the annotations for the articles and query whether these perspectives influenced their thinking about the articles. I think this would help to both impart additional knowledge and encourage them to think more critically. In some cases, e.g. a recent Rolling Stone piece  by Eric Holthaus on the potential current impacts of climate change, there is a wide scope of opinion by seven scientists on the scientific validity of the arguments advanced in the article. This would also help demonstrate the contested nature of science under many circumstances; it could also lead to some interesting class discussion of the different methods of assessment used by scientists and students could be encouraged to tease out the assumptions that lead to different conclusions.

Incidentally, the site is extremely well balanced in terms of its assessment of the constructs of both proponents of the theory of anthropogenic global warming, as well as skeptics. As a teaching tool, it affords students access to the insights of some very good thinkers in the field, and it’s a resource that is likely to grow in popularity.

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