On display: climate change and hope

New ML exhibit highlights Earth's climate system, societal strategies

May 4, 2016 | The realities of climate change can test our optimism. The new Mesa Lab climate exhibit, which is being installed this month, aims to leave visitors with a sense of hope.

“We’re excited to include a major section that emphasizes what people can do about climate change in their personal choices, such as driving less or making their homes more energy efficient,” said Becca Hatheway, exhibits manager for the UCAR Center for Science Education (SciEd). “We didn’t want visitors leaving the exhibit feeling nothing but doom and gloom."

New NCAR climate exhibit: Artist's rendition of panels and interactive display
This artist's rendition highlights part of the climate exhibit. The first section of the exhibit (right) provides an overview of Earth's climate system. The interactive display (left) allows visitors to explore how future levels of greenhouse gas emissions will affect heat waves. (Illustration by Condit Exhibits.)

The exhibit, which formally opens in June, is the result of a two-year effort led by SciEd with assistance from staff across NCAR and UCAR. It is believed to be the most comprehensive permanent exhibit on the Front Range about climate change.

Overall it will provide a far more interactive experience than the previous exhibit, which dated to 2003. Visitors on the second floor of the Mesa Lab will be greeted with touchscreens and hands-on displays. They’ll learn about new research into the climate system and potential impacts on society.

From climate basics to choosing our future

The exhibit will be divided into five sections, each carefully vetted by NCAR and UCAR experts. The sections provide an overview of our climate system, the influence of greenhouse gases, the evidence that scientists use to study climate, the impacts of climate change on society and ecosystems, and strategies for reducing our carbon footprint and adapting to a changing climate.

One of the highlights is an interactive exhibit called “Shifting the Weather Odds.” Using balls that drop into different slots, visitors can see how higher emissions of greenhouse gases will lead to extreme heat waves occurring more frequently. Another interactive exhibit, “Choose our Future,” will enable visitors to select activities such as the use of alternative building materials and see how that would affect global temperatures by century’s end.

The exhibit will also feature a touchscreen with “Community Stories”—recordings of people across the country sharing observations about local climate change and what they're doing about it. In time, visitors will be able to upload their own stories.

“It’s really important to have these first-person accounts,” Hatheway said. “Climate change is something that affects all of us in different ways.”

The exhibit features a number of colorful graphics and illustrations by SciEd’s Lisa Gardiner. Condit Exhibits provided design and fabrication services.

Numerous NCAR climate scientists provided input on the exhibit and reviewed the sections for accuracy. Additional support came from Facilities Management, Safety, and Sustainability; the Network Engineering and Telecommunications Section (NETS); and NCAR | UCAR Communications.

NCAR Senior Scientist Jeff Kiehl was among the experts providing exhibit guidance. “This is a wonderful project," he said. "It not only conveys the scientific seriousness of climate change, but perhaps more importantly shows some of the ways we can take on the challenge of addressing the issue.”

“This project was a truly collaborative effort, drawing on expertise from across the institution,” Hatheway said. “We couldn’t have done it without the support from so many scientists, writers, educators, and technical staff.”

David Hosansky, Manager of Media Relations