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Narrative: Sea Level Rise
Slide 04: Nighttime Lights
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Narrative: Sea Level Rise
Slide 04: Nighttime Lights
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Slide 04:  Nighttime Lights

Slide 04: Nighttime Lights

Say:

Take a look at this photograph. In this image, we see our planet from space at night. This view reveals places around the world that are using electric lighting.

To generate electricity, we usually burn fossil fuels, including coal, oil and natural gas. For example, most of the electricity used in the United States is generated by burning coal.

Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And while “regular” levels of CO2 are a necessary part of life on earth, here we are talking about “rampant” levels of CO2—excessive amounts of the gas.

When this rampant CO2 goes into the atmosphere, it builds up and acts like a heat-trapping blanket. In the same way that a blanket traps the heat from a person’s body, the “blanket effect” of rampant CO2 traps Earth’s heat and warms the the atmosphere and the ocean. {Use hand gestures to model a blanket covering the globe.}

Notes and Rationale:

Offering explicit cues to orient to new images helps visitors track the narrative more effectively.

When introducing the cause of ocean and climate change, always start the Explanatory Chain with fossil fuels (rather than “carbon dioxide” or “human activity.”  The way people understand the cause of a problem has a major influence on the way they think about solutions, so effectively framing the role of fossil fuels is essential.

Two tested explanatory techniques are used here to help the public understand the basic mechanism of climate change:

  • The distinction between Regular and Rampant CO2, helps visitors add to the knowledge they probably already hold about carbon dioxide—that it plays a role in human respiration and photosynthesis. The taxonomy allows them to hold the newer, counterintuitive information (that CO2 can also play a harmful role) alongside existing concepts.
  • The Explanatory Metaphor is Heat–Trapping Blanket. This easy-to-grasp analogy focuses the public on the key characteristic of carbon dioxide: it traps heat. Use a hand gesture to mimic the blanket covering the globe when you introduce this metaphor.

Here we explain two different mechanisms that are contributing to rising oceans, without getting bogged down in details. 

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