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York researcher contributes to climate ‘myth-busting’ course

Posted on 27 April 2015

A researcher from the University of York is contributing to an international effort to debunk climate myths and help people understand the controversies around climate science.

Making sense of climate change denial (credit: Kevin Cowtan)

Dr Kevin Cowtan, joins a team of leading climate scientists and climate science communicators contributing to a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) which starts tomorrow (28 April).

The course, ‘Making Sense of Climate Science Denial’, is a seven-week programme featuring lectures, exercises and interviews with 75 scientific experts. University of Queensland Global Change Institute Climate Communication Fellow and MOOC coordinator John Cook says that the course tackles climate myths and exposes techniques used to mislead the public.

Dr Cowtan, of the Department of Chemistry at York, says: “No one wakes up in the morning and decides ‘I’m going to dispute the scientific consensus on the structure of the atom’. And yet people do exactly that with climate science. That’s really interesting.”

Dr Cowtan is best known for his work in X-ray crystallography, which has been cited extensively in scientific papers. However, he has also developed a new version of the historical global temperature record, which is seeing increasing use in the scientific community. He is collaborating on other projects with climate scientists worldwide.

A long standing interest in teaching and communicating science led to his involvement in climate. “Climate science has the most interesting communication problems of any field of science. Because climate science threatens our worldviews, we develop defence mechanisms to avoid the evidence”, he says.

As well as delivering lectures on the historical temperature record and the so-called ‘hiatus’ in global warming, Dr Cowtan has developed interactive software which will allow students to investigate the temperature record for themselves.

The course incorporates climate science and the psychology of climate change to explain the most common climate myths and to detail how to respond to them.

The uqX course is offered via the edX not-for-profit online learning platform. Participants can enrol at: https://www.edx.org/course/making-sense-climate-science-denial-uqx-denial101x

Thousands of students from more than 130 countries have already enrolled.

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