Separate fact from fear

Three years after tackling the divisive issue of evolution in an exhibition on Charles Darwin, the American Museum of Natural History in New York is mounting a show called “Climate Change: The Threat to Life and A New Energy Future.”

A U.N. climate panel, comprising hundreds of scientists and policymakers, found last year with 90 percent certainty that climate change is spurred by human activities, specifically the burning of fossil fuels that release climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Some people remain skeptical that human activity is responsible. Among them is Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who cast doubt on the cause of global warming during a debate this month.

The fact is, human activity emits 29 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year from the burning of fossil fuels. And scientists estimate that every person in the world burns, on average, the equivalent of three tons of coal every year.

Curator Edmond Mathez said that when he proposed the exhibition a few years ago, he was frustrated that public awareness did not match the alarm felt by scientists.

“The news media was presenting climate change as a controversial issue, which is complete nonsense, it’s not (controversial),” Mathez told Reuters on Tuesday at a preview of the exhibition that opens on Saturday and runs in New York through August 2009.

“I’m sure there are some people that will condemn it out of hand,” Mathez said of the exhibition. “What’s important to me as a scientist is my colleagues will walk through here and say we did it correctly, that we present the issue objectively.”

Exhibits include interactive displays for visitors to pledge to make changes in their behavior, such as buying low-energy light bulbs, recycling waste or bicycling to work.

The exhibition is set to travel to Spain, Denmark, Mexico and Abu Dhabi.