|2011-08-31 13:08:22||Online courses in climate change free, accessible and locally grown -- Victoria (BC) Times Colonist|
Online courses in climate change free, accessible and locally grown
By Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist
Does the mind boggle before the big words?
Confused by incomprehensible graphs?
Bewildered by scientific elucidation?
Relax, the mysteries of climate change are now spelled out in understandable words, helped along by animation and interviews, in an innovative series of online courses produced by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.
The first of four free modules of Climate Insights 101, designed for B.C. civil servants but available online for teachers and the public, was released Monday by Environment Minister Terry Lake at the Institute of Public Administration of Canada annual conference.
Tom Pedersen, Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions executive director, said it was a challenge to abandon scientific jargon and explain climate change in an understandable way to those without a scientific background.
"Look at the description of the greenhouse effect, where we describe a molecule of carbon dioxide absorbing infrared radiation coming off the Earth," Pedersen said.
"We could have used terms like radiative quantum thermodynamics, but we avoided that because people's eyes would glaze over."
Instead, the video presentation shows a molecule vibrating after it is hit by a heat ray.
The molecule holds the energy for a few milliseconds and then releases it. If it is released downward, the heat goes right back into the atmosphere.
"That's what the greenhouse effect is. That's why it's getting warmer. We have known this since the 1850s," Pedersen said.
The first module is available now and the remaining three will be released by the institute next year.
Pedersen hopes the video will go viral.
"The current global population is seven billion and I would like to have seven billion viewers. It's free to the world," he said.
The main aim is to increase understanding of climate change, Pedersen said.
"And I hope the public and policy-makers will understand when they are being duped by those segments of society that would rather we do nothing about acting on climate change," he said.
"Some sectors, driven by particular political ideologies, seem to think [that] if we continue to pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, everything will be fine. Everything will not be fine."
Some companies in the oil and coal sectors believe government action on climate change would constrain their economic activity, but wiser firms have seen the need to wean the world off oil and are rebuilding themselves as energy providers rather than oil providers, Pedersen said.
Lake said that as B.C. boasts the first carbon-neutral public service in North America, the easy-to-understand information in vital.
"It's not just the people involved in policy around climate change - everyone in day-to-day government operations needs to know why it's important to recycle, use less paper and turn the lights off," he said.
However, Lake admitted that in the quest for a carbon-neutral public service, there is some public discomfort with cash-strapped school boards and hospital boards having to buy carbon credits from the Pacific Carbon Trust and be linked to private companies.
The trust, a Crown corporation, is responsible for buying carbon offsets from companies such as Encana, a profitable energy company.
"We have started discussions generally around [having] some fund within the Pacific Carbon Trust dedicated to schools and hospitals so the money comes back to them to help reduce their carbon footprint," Lake said.
To watch the first part of Climate Insights 101, go to www.pics.uvic.ca.
The videos have been funded by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, a group led by UVic with collaboration from the University of B.C., Simon Fraser University and the University of Northern B.C.