Saturday, March 19th 2011, 3:27 AM EDT
For him, passing or rejecting the House amendments is less important than whether lawmakers actually understand climate science and are thoughtfully considering the risks of inaction.
"If we were well informed as a society — and if policymakers were well informed — then they would be taking the risk that climate change should be taken seriously."
Higgins pointed out that the Google fellowship is geared just as much toward influencing those who believe that climate change poses serious consequences, but may not yet grasp the science.
"The vast majority of people don't know and understand the details of climate science," he said. "The science of climate change spans 20 to 30 disciplines and sub-disciplines, at least ... It is an enormous amount of information, and distilling it is a bit of a challenge."
Kelly Levin, a senior research associate at the World Resources Institute, a conservation group, said she hoped the Google program could tackle that challenge by engaging wider audiences in the scientific discussion.
"Given the pace and scale of human-induced climate change, it is of great importance that climate change science, and the urgency of addressing the climate change problem, is communicated effectively to the public and decision makers," she said.
She added: "Involving the public more directly in the scientific process could increase the acceptance of ideas and help scientific advancements inform governmental policies."
A More Accessible Approach
Throughout the year, the Google fellows will sharpen their new media skills, learn data-sharing technologies and improve communication strategies to lend a more accessible approach to climate science.
Following a workshop in June, fellows will have the chance to apply for grants to support projects fostering scientific dialogue. Future participants will take on other socially relevant topics tied to science and the environment.
"The public's understanding of science across all disciplines is extremely low, because the scientific community is really siloed from the community in general," Amy Luers, Google's senior environment program manager, told SolveClimate News.
"If the scientists understand [data] in a different way than the public does, it is impossible to see how this information is going to be integrated in the way it needs to be to make policy and management decisions," she said.
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