Five years ago, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) published What We Know, an extensive report on how scientists view climate change and the possible actions to diminish its impact. AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society with over 120,000 members, and two LSC faculty have the honor of being fellows of the organization.
AAAS has now documented the nation’s response to climate change in its latest report, How We Respond. This report showcases the steps select communities across the United States are taking to reduce the risks of climate change.
Dominique Brossard, chair of the Department of Life Sciences Communication, was chosen to be one of 19 members on the advisory committee for this project.
“The idea of this campaign is to highlight all the efforts nobody talks about. To show what is happening at the grassroots level where you have meaningful, motivated, eager-to-make-a-change individuals that are making a difference,” Brossard stated.
Her expertise in risk communication and public opinion on climate change research makes her a valuable asset to the team. Using science to explain climate change is not a novel concept, but statistics on carbon dioxide levels and rising temperatures are not the best way to help the public understand how they will be impacted. Brossard’s work as a social scientist is crucial to bridge the gap between technical and social approaches to risk management.
How We Respond profiles 18 different regions around the country and highlights how science is being applied to create solutions and address local issues brought up by climate change. These real-life examples emphasize the importance of adapting to the current risks facing each region. They also show how people are working to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent future consequences.
Dane County, WI is one of the communities featured due to a recent initiative to capture and clean methane gas from the region’s landfill. The county is then able to sell it to the nearby pipeline as renewable natural gas, the cleanest transportation fuel available.
In the long run, the use of renewable natural gases by Dane County, in replacement of fossil fuels, will reduce the area’s greenhouse gas emissions. This transition will also save local taxpayers money once the county pays off the operation four years from now.
Dane County is looking to expand this project by investing in biodigesters that could also harvest methane gas from cow manure. This could help reduce phosphorus runoff and, in turn, drastically decrease the algae blooms that threaten the local lakes each summer.
The message of hope that the How We Respond campaign highlights can be difficult to find in today’s news.
“According to the news, it’s all doom and gloom,” Brossard said. “But, you know what? If we work together, we can be resilient, and these stories are a good illustration of that.”
The resilience Brossard mentioned has fortunately gained steam and is making headlines. Just last month, large crowds from all across the globe marched to demand greater action on climate change. Coverage of the event showed that activists of all ages are joining forces to make their voices heard.
How We Respond could not have come at a better time. Change is coming, and it’s fueled by local action. Interested in checking out the report? -Head over to https://howwerespond.aaas.org/report/ to learn more.
Story by Jessica Knackert, LSC B.S. ’20 and LSC’s 2019-20 Lenore Landry Scholar