Climate Change Walk Through
For Immediate Release
Contact: Field Museum PR Department
(312) 665-7100, email@example.com
Exhibition Walk Through
June 25 – November 28, 2010
Earth’s climate is always changing due to a variety of natural causes, but there is overwhelming worldwide scientific consensus that global climate change is occurring in our time. As a scientific institution, The Field Museum agrees with this consensus, recognizing that the pace of climate change is accelerating and is largely caused by human activities.
The severity of climate change in some areas of the world cannot be predicted with precision. However, there is staggering data showing dramatic changes to polar ice and associated sea levels, increased acidity in oceans, and more intense storms and droughts. Climate change threatens the survival of species, the sustainability of ecosystems, and the safety and comfort of millions of people.
Inside the Climate Change exhibition visitors learn about:
Burning Fossil Fuels
Did you know it takes one metric ton of coal, or its equivalent, to power the average American home for two months? Did you also know when powering a home, that same metric ton of coal also emits nearly 2.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into our atmosphere? Before entering the exhibition, visitors can touch a one-ton model of coal to get a sense of the massive amount of resources we use in our daily lives.
Inside, visitors are presented with a 60-foot-long panoramic illustration of the revolutionary technological advances that have shaped our modern world, from incandescent light bulbs to jumbo jet airplanes. Historic engineering feats are on display, including a model of the Newcomen steam engine (invented 300 years ago to pump water from coal mines), an early 1900s filament light bulb, and a 1977 Tandy TR-80 personal computer.
However, a glaring red stripe of light in this display marks the consequences of these technologies: the rise in CO2 in our atmosphere —a fact we did not understand until recently.
Greenhouse Gases = A Warmer Earth
An eight-minute video presentation, Changing Climate, Changing World, gives visitors an introduction to climate science and explains how scientists have come to understand that CO2 and other “greenhouse gases” are causing the average global temperature to rise.
Making a Difference
We have heard it before, but it is true: there are numerous ways for individuals to save and consume less energy.
Interactive stations in this gallery help illustrate that making even relatively small changes (using energy-efficient light bulbs, driving less, planting trees and shrubs, etc.) can bring about massive savings in CO2 emissions. A running tally from each of these stations shows how conscious choices can, and will, reduce our collective carbon footprint.
Impact on Atmosphere, Ice, Oceans, and Lands
The world’s atmosphere is warming and all the Earth’s inhabitants are starting to feel the effects. Here, an 18-inch translucent globe with documented information from NASA and NOAA projected from within, underscores the complexity of Earth’s changing climate.
Dramatic images of Hurricane Katrina and the Chicago heat wave of 1995 pictured in this section show visitors the impact extreme weather has on human life. A 10-foot rain wall—literally a wall of pouring water—illustrates the heavy downpours that could become commonplace as the atmosphere continues to warm.
These disastrous weather events may have other contributing causes but there is strong evidence that worldwide alteration in climate patterns is intensifying periods of extreme weather including storms, flooding, and drought.
Significant portions of Greenland’s ice sheet, as well as the ice sheets of the Antarctic, have already fallen or melted into the oceans. This is changing the oceans’ currents and making sea levels rise. Greenland’s ice sheets total about 1.77 cubic miles. If this ice were to melt, what could happen?
In this gallery, rising water levels are projected onto an architectural model of lower Manhattan, portraying a scenario of a sea-level rise of 10-16 feet. Rising water would not just devastate New York. One out of every 10 people worldwide resides near sea level. Melting ice sheets have the potential to impact hundreds of millions of people!
Another dire consequence of melting ice is habitat repositioning. The exhibition features an open-air diorama of a polar bear reduced to foraging in a garbage dump. Experts believe polar bears and other animals will be forced to invade human-populated areas in response to a dwindling habitat.
An interactive display allows visitors to see how white-hued materials reflect light energy and dark-hued materials absorb energy, illustrating the difference between white ice sheets and the dark ocean waters that are increasingly being exposed, causing oceans to warm.
A Changing Ocean
Our oceans play a huge role in regulating the Earth’s climate; so when oceans change, climates change. Oceans move heat around the planet and remove CO2 from the atmosphere. In fact, about 30 percent of the CO2 released by human activity over the past two centuries has already been absorbed by the oceans, causing an increase of ocean acidification. The resulting high acid levels affect the health and growth of corals, plankton, and other shell-forming organisms. A large model of dead white coral reef—the result of “coral bleaching”—is set against a backdrop of a healthy, colorful, and vibrant reef to highlight this danger.
A specially created 12-foot-tall buoy is on display, showing how scientists collect data on temperatures and ocean chemistry from deep within the ocean. Also on display is a robotic diving vehicle that can travel underwater for weeks and needs to resurface only periodically in order to send out findings from the deep.
An increase of droughts, floods, and wildfires will cause more ecosystems to suffer. Visitors can examine tree cross-sections, Mother Nature’s personal records of climate change. The rings document severe droughts, intense rains, and increased wildfires.
Arresting dioramas in this section of the exhibition show various animal and plant species affected by climate change and other environmental threats, including deforestation (the systematic reduction of forests and jungles, our natural CO2 absorbers). A video explains The Field Museum’s program to save large areas of CO2-absorbing forests of Peru and to make “shares” of forest protection available on the world’s voluntary carbon market.
Cleaning Up After Ourselves
Visitors are taken though a series of displays presenting solutions to the climate change crisis, some of which include the glistening mirrors of a solar collector, the core of a pebble-bed nuclear reactor, and a giant 15-foot wind turbine blade.
Chicago is leading the nation in developing green architecture, reducing industrial waste, and preserving CO2-absorbing green-space. An uplifting video focusing on the innovative Climate Action Plan for the City of Chicago also introduces visitors to Field Museum partner organizations and their work. This section makes it clear that there is no single universal solution. When taking into account factors such as geographical locations, cost, and scale of impact, a careful combination of approaches is required to protect against future climate change.