This week, the Science Museum announced a new exhibition on climate change, set to open in November.* Nothing unusual about that, except that the Museum’s last Climate Change exhibition (“Prove It! All the evidence you need to believe in climate change”) only closed in February. It seems a bit odd to open another one so soon afterwards. How is this one different? Well,
Prof. Chris Rapley CBE, Director of the Science Museum, said:
“The Science Museum aims to provide the answers to people’s questions about the science of climate change, becoming a trusted destination for public engagement with climate science. The scientific community has, with some exceptions, concluded that climate change is real, largely driven by humans and requires a response. Our exhibition will deliver an immersive, enjoyable and memorable experience that explains their work and results and shows how science and technology can contribute to a low-carbon future. Our objective is to minimise the shrill tone and emotion that bedevils discussion of this subject, satisfying the interests and needs of those who accept that human-induced climate change is real, those who are unsure, and those who do not.”
Yep, that’s right. The Science Museum thinks that part of its remit is to accommodate the ‘interests and needs’ of climate change deniers (and while we’re on the subject, yes, it is legitimate to call them deniers, and no, neither the climategate emails from UEA nor a couple of errors about glaciers in an IPCC report undermine the science of climate change. Just so we’re clear.) Oh, and in what I’m sure is nothing but a massive coincidence, the exhibition is co-sponsored by Shell.
Acknowledging the existence of climate change deniers isn’t harmful in itself. The problem is how it’s presented. I’m pretty sure the Science Museum wouldn’t have an exhibition about evolution that aimed to ‘satisfy the interests and needs’ of creationists, or one about medicine that tried to make space for faith healers. In both cases the beliefs in question might get a mention, perhaps as part of a wider explanation of hypothesis-testing and the scientific method, but no more than that. So why is this issue being treated differently? At a guess, because of the current popularity of climate change denial in influential (albeit conservative wingnut) circles. But it’s not the job of a science museum to pander to anti-science points of view just because they happen to be given a lot of column inches in the Daily Telegraph.
If you’d like to let the Science Museum know your views on this, They have a contact page here.