Monthly greenhouse gas data can now be easily accessed by the public, thanks to a climate data website launched today by CSIRO. The site shows 35 years worth of greenhouse gas levels in the Southern Hemisphere atmosphere.

The data comes from Cape Grim in Tasmania, where the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology have measured greenhouse gas levels there since 1976. The site deliberately uses monthly rather than annual figures to demonstrate seasonal variabilities that occur over a year, however the interactive website gives the public a chance to examine what time period in the last 35 years it chooses.

At an online conference to discuss the new website, Dr Paul Fraser from CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research noted that it was important to use this type of data to drive models for climate change, rather than using a statistical extrapolation of the data as that would not account for socio-economic and other factors.

The site is aimed at educating the public and providing climate data for them to examine themselves, particularly since Cape Grim has some of the world’s cleanest air yet reflects the global trend in rising greenhouse gas levels.

Over in the UK, where the government has promised to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2025, the head of a review into the national curriculum has questioned the need for climate change and climate science to be studied in schools by students, instead preferring a ‘back to basics’ in science education.

When asked by Crikey if Australia’ national curriculum should explicitly study climate change and climate science, and whether this website would be a good tool for students, Dr Fraser replied: “If we can somehow get it built into the curriculum and that students can access this site, I think that’d be a terrific thing. If that could be achieved it would be wonderful to get the students interacting with the data in a seemingly uncomplicated way.”

The site launch coincides with 200 scientists descending on parliament today for the annual Science meets Parliament, a two-day event where scientists meet with politicians to discuss the latest news and issues affecting the industry.

As part of the event, a new ‘respect the science’ campaign will launch tonight, where scientists will explain the peer-review process and launch an online campaign. The online campaign will be an area where consumers will be able to gather peer-reviewed scientific information about issues that they may have to make decisions about. It’s also hoped the campaign will influence parliamentarians to use science when making policy decisions.

“We truly believe that when you do understand the absolute rigour that is science and the peer review process, people do respect it,” Anna-Maria Arabia, CEO of the Federation of Australian Science and Technological Societies, told Crikey.

“It is not a religion, it’s not something we just believe in, it’s a process,” said Arabia, noting that the peak body was tired of the disrespectful “misinformation campaign” that the scientific community encountered daily in the media, particularly from shock jocks.

While climate science gets a lot of the public scepticism spotlight, the campaign will cover a variety of scientific endeavours including nanotechnology, vaccinations and stem cell research.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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