Diary Chapters

The science of climate change

Wise Words


Science is facts; just as houses are made of stone, so is science made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house, and a collection of facts is not necessarily science. Jules Henri Poincaré


The Facts

Good science: the great argy bargy

LR_Work out a question

Even though scientists debate about who's right and wrong, there's a method to the madness! It's called The Scientific Method. The Scientific Method is all about investigating something, gaining new knowledge about it, or correcting old and potentially wrong knowledge based on what you have learned so that the explanation makes sense.


It works like this:


1. Work out a question. Science is all about answering questions - yours can be about things you see (like, why is the grass green?) or wonder (how long
LR_Testitoutdoes it take for a sound to be heard through water?) or really want to solve (what causes or cures a disease?).


2. Develop a hypothesis. This is the part where you come up with your explanation for the answer to your question. Your hypothesis might not turn
out to be the correct answer, but that's ok. The most important thing is that
you should be able to test your hypothesis using experiments - otherwise it
won't be real science.


3. Test it out. The fun part is when you get to investigate whether your hypothesis works in the real world when it's put to the test! Some experiments can reveal unexpected new problems, so stay alert! To test things well, sometimes it helps to test things in bite-sized chunks. One hypothesis can lead to another hypothesis, and scientists test each other's hypothesis out all the time. That's the argy bargy bit.


4. Analyse the results. This part is about checking the test results to see if your hypothesis makes sense. It's also the part where you can work out what to do next, because scientists never rest, they're always on the lookout for the next big question!
You might have to test things and then think about the LR_Putyourresultstothetestresults again and again before you can answer your question with confidence. But when you get there it's worth it!


5. Put your results to the test. The last step in the process is super important: a scientist needs to get other scientists to check her or his work. They do this through a process called peer review. That's science speak for 'getting other people to check your work' - just like your mum or brother might check your homework before you give it to your teacher. They may ask you to change a

few things or point out some errors before you hand it in to the teacher.


Before scientific research is published, other qualified scientists review the research. Its like a quality control system to make sure research is good enough to be published. Once these super smart checkers are happy with your work, you can submit it to be published in a scientific journal. That way you can share your ideas and findings with the whole world! Sounds cool, doesn't it?


Scientists work super hard to keep themselves honest, making sure that everyone else can keep track of what's happening . This is called transparency because it is like watching what's going on inside a glass fishbowl. Everyone who wants to can see what's going on. That's the power of peer review.



It's only real science if the hypothesis is published and then reviewed by other scientists. There are plenty of wild, whacko ideas floating around, but the ones that are based on good science are always published in respected journals. That's what separates good science from bad science.


Sometimes not-so-good science still makes it into some scientific journals, so scientists need to stay on their toes when reviewing each other's work.



Don't believe everything you read in the media! Read the facts, and trusted sources like your schoolbooks and the people who know, such as the scientists at CSIRO, BoM and NOAA.

Fantastic fact

Our oceans have already absorbed a lot of the extra heat from our atmosphere.


Scientists have been measuring the temperature of our oceans all over the world since the 1950s and found they have been heating up - little by little.


Action Ideas

Teach your mates and family about climate change, don't think they know it all!

Get smart about your power use, encourage your friends and family to use renewable energy such as solar or wind

Ask questions and investigate, just like the scientists.


There is a lot of talk about climate change. Here are some questions to consider.



What's the difference between weather and climate?

Time. Weather consists of the short-term changes in our atmosphere, such as changes in temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure and so forth. Weather can change from minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, day-to-day and season-to-season.


Climate is the average weather for a particular region over a longer period of time, such as years, decades or more.


Why study climate?

Apart from being one of the coolest jobs (think of explorers drilling through the thick ice in Antarctica and guiding unmanned planes into the air to measure stuff) it's super important to know what's going on with our climate.


Think about how important it is to know what the weather will be tomorrow - will you be warm in just a shirt? Will it be raining when you are supposed to play sport? Will clouds cover up your solar panels? Knowing about the climate is even more important. Climate can affect people, animals, plants and even the shape of our coastlines all around the world. If our planet warms, deserts might get larger and glaciers may disappear. When glaciers melt, the water will flow into the oceans causing sea levels to rise. Rising sea levels might cause islands to disappear. Pretty important stuff, don't you think?


Has the climate on our planet always been the same?673607411_fc944fcf20

Scientist have worked out that our planet is about 4.5 BILLION years old. Throughout time the climate has always changed - temperatures rise and fall, because of natural forces including volcanic eruptions, the movement of continents and oceans, natural changes in the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, changes to the sun's intensity, and even variations in the Earth's orbit around the sun (called milankovitch cycles, try pronouncing that!).


Changing temperatures cause lots of different things on our planet, such as growing and shrinking glaciers, and rising and falling sea levels. Did you know that scientist found old beaches in the Murray Darling Basin
hundreds of kilometres from today's shoreline and over 100 meters
above sea level?iStock_000005723502Small


So what's the fuss?

Speed! Over the past 50 years our atmosphere has warmed by 0.13 degrees celsius per decade. It doesn't sound like much, but it is if you compare it to the past. During past ice ages and during warmer periods between them our atmosphere has warmed slowly (around 0.01 degrees celsius per decade). Current warming of more than 10 times as fast doesn't give plants or animals the chance to adapt to changing climates. Certainly not enough time to grow less hair or flippers!


What changes are happening around me today because of climate change?

Each decade has been warmer than the previous decade since the 1950s'
(quote from CSIRO/BoM state of the climate 2012).


Scientist all over the world study what's changing and this is what they found:

  • global temperatures have risen by 0.8 degrees celsius during the past 100 years
  • sea levels are rising at a rate of 3.1 mm per year
  • rainfall patterns are changing
  • the oceans are warming
  • there is more extreme hot weather, such as heat waves, and fewer cold extremes
  • mountain glaciers and polar ice sheets are melting.


Is it us?


Hate to say, but yes it is. We do a lot of things that release CO2 and other

greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, which would otherwise be trapped deep under ground or in trees. We dig up coal and gas and power our lives with it. We chop down trees and build houses and cities from them. Burning fossil fuels for energy releases pollution including CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the air, which drives the speedy climate change we are seeing today. Ice core records show there's way more CO2 in our atmosphere than there used to be (390 parts per million (ppm) today, compared to between 172 and 300 ppm of the last 800,000 years).


What happens if we don't reduce greenhouse emissions?

As we explained in the Good Science section, scientists use 832365_67055396supercomputers and mountains of data collected from all over the world to work out what our future climate may be like. Here are some of the things they've worked out:


  • temperatures in Australia could increase by up to 5 degrees by 2070
  • sea levels could rise by up to 80 cm by the end of the century (baseline of 1990)
  • we are likely to see more severe and intense extreme climatic events.


More Juicy Stuff...


Exciting times, exciting solutions


This is a very exciting time. The industrial revolution, which started a couple of hundred years ago, produced all sorts of technology that made an ENORMOUS impact on people's lives.


Now we are about to go through another period of major change, where we shift from relying on carbon-intensive sources of energy such as oil and coal. In the future, energy will come from a range of sources, combining the old with lots of new, sustainable ones.


The great news is that our energy challenge comes at a time when we are inventing more things than ever. These days with technology and the Internet the SPEED of scientific discovery is really fast and getting even faster.


We've seen how quickly mobile phones have taken off - who knows what's next?





Be a Future Spark!!!


We need YOUR imagination

Evidence is showing that the pollution created by burning oil and coal is contributing to g lobal warming. So we need new sustainable energy ideas to keep up with our demand for electricity without damaging our environment. And we need YOUR help to come up with new ideas.


Some of the world's most incredible inventions were created by kids!

Philo Farnsworth was 14 when he first came up with the idea of a working television in 1920. His invention went on to change the world.


We need your energy ideas to help come up with the big solutions. Get your thinking cap on and consider these questions:

  • What other sources of energy can we use?
  • How can we use energy more efficiently?
  • How can we save energy?
  • How can we spread the word about saving energy that really makes a difference?
  • Check out www.futuresparks.org.au for more inspiration!

You too can get involved...

Get started here!
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