By Chris Schnepf
One of the biggest challenges facing extension professionals is how to address climate change, especially in the context of people asking questions or making assertions that challenge climate science. Many of these questions have some kind of “gotcha” premise or multi-layered assumptions which must be pulled out and addressed individually to respond.
These kinds of questions are difficult to deal with even on comparatively simple topics like managing a specific insect pest, but they are even more challenging in an arena as complex as climate change, especially since many extension educators do not have as much depth of training as they do in a specific discipline such as agronomy or forestry.
At a climate change meeting in Arizona several years ago, an extension climate specialist and I were discussing the challenges of these sorts of questions and wondering if we needed to come up with a curriculum to help extension educators prepare for them. Ultimately, we decided that a pretty good one was already available online in the form of “Skeptical Science,” a website and mobile device app. If you click on the header labeled “Arguments,” Skeptical Science outlines nearly 200 common climate myths, such as “Climate’s changed before” or “It’s the sun”. By clicking on those arguments, you can access a layered (basic or intermediate) explanation summarizing scientific responses to the assertion, with links to cited research.
I have found this tool to be very helpful in framing my understanding of the questions that come up on climate science. I would recommend Skeptical Science to any extension professional who would like to learn more about responding to climate science questions.