This Workbook is designed to be used by college faculty and secondary school science teachers. It is part of our call for more action to better connect science and society—responsible action to address and to mitigate climate change which is the greatest challenge that humanity has faced. We must act responsibly. Human activities, principally the combustion of fossil fuels, are a major source of greenhouse gases and a major driver of climate change. To teach our students and also to share this knowledge with the public and be credible, science teachers at all levels must acquire a good grasp of the science of climate change and must also develop skills for affecting attitudes in and out of the classroom. This Workbook enables us to enrich our existing curricula by incorporating and by linking the science of climate change to the content of our current courses and in conversations in our communities.

We live in the most advanced scientific and technological society in history.  Advances in science and technology have greatly affected the human condition around the globe.  New discoveries have led to improvements and benefits in our daily lives, but also to new societal problems. Today our biggest challenge is to help sustain Earth and its people in the face of: global warming, population growth, finite resources, malnutrition, spreading disease, deadly violence, war, and the denial of basic human rights, especially the right to benefit from scientific and technological progress. Science and society have what is essentially a social contract that enables great intellectual achievements but comes with mutual expectations of benefiting the human condition and protecting our planet. College faculty and teachers at all levels are responsible for helping students acquire knowledge and develop skills for addressing grand challenges facing society.  

The mission of the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy is to promote literacy in science, mathematics, and technology among the general public and to attract future generations to careers in research, teaching, and public service. Science brings a wide range of goods and functions to everyone and thus is vital to our democracy. Science literacy is necessary for the democratic process to work. By science literacy I mean an appreciation of science, an understanding of the benefits of technology and the potential rewards and risks associated with advances in both, as well as a recognition of what science is capable of achieving and what it cannot accomplish. Science literacy enlightens and enables people to make informed choices; to be skeptical; to reject shams, quackery, and unproven conjecture; and to avoid being bamboozled into making foolish decisions where matters of science and technology are concerned. Science literacy is for everyone—scientists, artists, humanists, all professionals, the general public, youth and adults alike. The level of science literacy in any society is a measure of what it values and its resolve to put these values into practice.

This Workbook is a living document created by my colleague, collaborator, and friend Jerry Bell.  We met in the fall of 1971 at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington, DC and for 50 years have worked closely together on a wide range of scientific and educational programs. Jerry is a master teacher. In all aspects of his interactions with students and with fellow teachers he is remarkable and inspiring. I invite you to learn from Jerry as he skillfully guides us in navigating important aspects of the science of climate change.

Bassam Z. Shakhashiri
Professor of Chemistry
William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea
Director, Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy

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