Science Museum takes climate debate to the people

A new exhibition at London's Science Museum aims to bring the climate change debate to the general public, presenting the facts and asking them to make up their own minds on possible solutions.

The six-month exhibition, Can algae save the world?…and other important questions about solving climate change, shows the public that whilst the vast majority of the scientific community agrees that man-made climate change is a real and present danger, there is less of a consensus when it comes to potential solutions.

Focusing in on the biofuels debate, it clearly presents the benefits – a net reduction in carbon emissions – but also outlines the drawbacks such as the cost, fear of driving up food prices due to competition for land and the carbon emitted during the production process.

The exhibition also puts up algae as the potential primary source of biofuels in the future, citing the ease of production and lack of a need for prime farming land as two of the main advantages.

The basics are presented on bright, accessible boards with touch-screen information portals dotted around to provide more in depth information for those who want it.

There is also a chance for the public to have their own say, with cards to fill in suggesting what they think might save the world. Comments so far range from the tongue in cheek and impractical – ‘Superman’ and ‘kill the humans’ – to calls for more carbon sequestration and an overhaul of our transport system.

Prof Chris Rapley, director of the Science Museum, launched the exhibition on Thursday saying it was a precursor to a major permanent exhibition on climate change that would open in late 2009 or early 2010.

Launching the exhibition, he said: “climate change is real and is being driven by humans and is significantly serious.

“[But] people are confused because the highly technical issues. [The exhibition] aims to help visitors make sense of the arguments and decide for themselves which of the options is worth taking seriously.”

The exhibition runs until April 2008.

Sam Bond

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