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Our Museum-Quality Carbon Freaks

Tony Thomas, Quadrant Online

As the halt to global surface warming continues beyond 17 years, science museums around the Western world are revving up their efforts to frighten young visitors with visions of climate catastrophe.

Indeed, as the “evidence” of a warming planet appears ever more feeble, efforts to promote the cause grow more concerted, not to mention strident. The museums are now coordinating their efforts while pursuing a shared policy of washing their apocalyptic story through multiple displays, including those dealing with history, anthropology, literature and the arts.

In this coordination, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), in New York, and Australia’s National Museum, in Canberra, are taking leading roles. The institutions convened a joint conference in New York last October on more effective climate  displays. It was called Collecting the Future: Museums, Communities & Climate Change.Participants were all chummy once again at a similar conference in Sydney in February, Encountering the Anthropocene — the Anthropocene being “where it seems humanity may bring on its own demise”.  Declaring a new geologic era, the “Anthropocene”, is a big call. The warming late last century lasted only 25 years,  compared with the previous Holocene period’s 12,000 years.

The New York joint organisers were our National Museum’s environmental historian, Dr Libby Robin, her  catastrophist colleague Dr Kirsten Wehner,  the AMNH’s Dr Jenny Newell (who thinks Pacific islands are “in the line of fire from climate change events”) and AMNH’s Jacklyn Lacey  (who imagines that Hurricane Katrina was climate-change related).

My own visits to climate displays at world-leading science museums have found them error-ridden and bizarre. At the Smithsonian in Washington, I witnessed children being invited to play a computer game involving a nuclear war over resources. Michael Mann’s discredited ‘hockey stick’ temperature reconstruction may be a dead letter, even with the IPCC these days, but it’s alive and well in museum displays for students.

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