If you find yourself in New York City over the next 10 months with a few hours to spare and a hankering to immerse yourself into climate change issues, you could do a lot worse than stop by the American Museum of Natural History.
A sweeping new exhibit – “Climate Change: The Threat to Life and a New Energy Future” – could also justify a full two-day detour and total immersion. It’s no doubt best experienced as a see-for-yourself and draw-your-own-conclusions experience. So just do it.
With plans for the exhibit to eventually travel to Spain, Denmark, Mexico, and Abu Dhabi, sponsors say it “explores the science, history, and impact of climate change, and illuminates ways in which individuals, communities and nations can reduce their carbon footprints. The exhibition provides a scientific context to help make sense of today’s most urgent headlines on global warming.”
Produced in cooperation with Princeton University geophysicist Michael Oppenheimer, the exhibit received a rather cool review in an October 17 piece in The New York Times by Edward Rothstein.
“There is something almost biblical about these worst-case scenarios, apocalyptically suggested even” by the exhibit’s subtitle, Rothstein wrote. Inexplicably, he added that the show argues that “the Sun’s energy is already raising the planet’s temperature (about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit in the last century) with doleful consequences to follow.” Rothstein wrote that the “ambitious and, at times, overwrought show” focuses “on how dire a state of crisis we are in.” He faults the program for “an almost religious urgency,” and finds “a thread mixing urgency and blame.”
“It would have been helpful had the exhibition taken such disagreements into account and made its case less sensationally,” Rothstein opined. “The exhibition’s insistence inspires wariness.”
Much more to the liking of American Museum officials is the Reuters’ take on the new exhibit. In that review, Reuters’s Claudia Parsons reports that Curator Edmond Mathez initiated the exhibition based on his own frustration that public awareness did not match scientists’ alarm.
“The news media was presenting climate change as a controversial issue, which is complete nonsense, it’s not (controversial),” Parsons reported.
“There’s always a group of people that are simply not going to believe it, and it’s not clear to me that many of those actually know very much about the science,” Parsons quoted Mathez as saying.
She quoted Museum President Ellen Futter as saying that although scientists can’t forecast the precise levels, times, and places of specific impacts, “there is now overwhelming scientific consensus, 90 percent of scientists agree, that there is an urgent need to address the problem.”
A museum spokesperson said the exhibit professionals see the Reuters review as one that “counter balances” the Times review.
Go judge for yourself.