'Gosh, the climate is changing. Gosh, humans have an impact on climate. Gosh, CO2 is called a greenhouse gas - and greenhouses quickly get very hot and unpleasant. Gosh, we are releasing huge amounts of CO2.'
Each one of these insights bar one will be new to most people, since they will not have not studied the climate system, nor even given it much thought. I included the 'gosh's to reflect this.. This novelty makes them vulnerable to the big conclusion:
'Gosh, we are in big trouble!'
Yet the evidence from climate records, both ancient and modern, does not suggest that the additional CO2 will have a dramatic effect, nor possibly even a readily detectable effect as a driver of climate change. Furthermore, calmer analysts than the handful most culpable for the acute alarm about CO2 we now have to endure, have argued that the impact on climate (including temperatures) of a further doubling of ambient levels of that gas will range from negligible up to 'quite hard to detect'.
Unfortunately the alarming view has won far greater political and financial support than the calming one, and it may well take many a long year for the educational system to turn its back with contempt and outrage at some of the materials that have been produced for young people. The seriously misleading movie called 'An Inconvenient Truth' is bad enough, but it has helped trigger a wave of materials no better or even worse than it.
The alarm has been sounded, the fear is widespread, and a great many individuals and organisations now have a vested interest in what it has led to in terms of government and other well-funded initiatives, including educational ones. So what is to be said to current and former pupils once the tide of alarm has clearly turned? It will not do merely to declare that some scientists and others were too easily scared by their computers and too willing to abandon their basic adult responsibility of avoiding ill-founded scaremongering. They shouted fire in our theatre, and it will take a lot of time before many of the audience can relax enough to get back without this extra anxiety to more or even to less important matters, including a basic enjoyment of the great successes of the human play to date.
work of one Nicola Scafetta, who argues that some 60% of the global warming observed since 1970 can be explained by cycles he has looked for in the system. From this point of view, the modest warming observed over that period (similar in size and duration to a warming observed earlier in the 20th century and not blamed on CO2) is largely 'natural' and to be expected. This of course diminishes the presumed importance of CO2 increases over this time, and thereby might help calm things down a bit with regard to that gas. Note that he presents his work as just a theory, and he is awaiting critical review from his peers. Just as he should. I suspect he is not part of a cabal intent on concealment of data and methods, and other manipulations to protect and promote their theory at almost any cost in terms of their integrity as men and as scientists. I daresay there will be no Climategate revelations to shock us about his groups of coworkers and colleagues.
His method is based on identifying cycles in climate records, and using them to make hindcasts and forecasts, both with some appreciable success according to his account. He identifies three major mechanisms behind these cycles:
Now it strikes me that these could be diluted and enlarged upon and illustrated in ways which could make it interesting and accessible to high school pupils, and perhaps even pictorially for younger children since even they have been the target of alarmists intent on recruitment for their dubious cause. We can partially counter their scaremongering with the presentation and enjoyment of broader theories, promoting a proper respect for observations and scientific method, and for the wonderful ability we have of using them to make more sense of things, and to make more and more progress in industry and agriculture.
(hat-tip for GWPF piece linked to above: Tom Nelson)