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Climate Science: More Than Just A Weather Report

by George L. Heard, Chair, Committee On Community Activities
April 20, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 16

2015 logo for Chemists Celebrate Earth Day.
Credit: Jim Starr

The theme of this year’s Chemists Celebrate Earth Day is a highly personal one to me. The 243rd national meeting of the American Chemical Society was held in San Diego in March of 2012, and it was my third meeting as a councilor for the Western Carolinas Local Section. I read on the agenda that ACS President Bassam Shakhashiri was to conduct a discussion on proposed topics for the ACS Climate Science Toolkit. I had been a member of the Committee on Community Activities (CCA) for a few years and had been on hand to witness creation of some terrific articles and activities for outreach as a part of the celebrations of the International Year of Chemistry 2011 and Chemists Celebrate Earth Day. I was a rather nervous junior councilor when I approached the microphone during Bassam’s discussion and respectfully suggested that the tool kit should have an outreach component and could incorporate some resources compiled by CCA, such as “Reduce Your Carbon Footprint,” which had been prepared for Chemists Celebrate Earth Day 2009.

Credit: Wyman Tannehill
George L. Heard, Chair, Committee On Community Activities.
Credit: Wyman Tannehill

The ACS Climate Science Toolkit was published in 2012 (­climatescience). It is an invaluable source of well-researched information, but as one of my fellow committee members mentioned to me, there’s “a lot of physical chemistry in there.” Although the tool kit is well-written and clear, it is directed at scientists and is well above the reading level of CCA’s target audience, children from age eight to 14. It was still in the back of my mind that the tool kit needed an outreach component, and I was delighted when, in my first year as CCA chair, the team that had been assembled to plan Chemists Celebrate Earth Day 2015 chose climate science as a theme. The group also decided that our outreach publication, Celebrating Chemistry, and our outreach activities would draw heavily from the tool kit. While we were preparing the articles and activities for Celebrating Chemistry, in late 2014, Bassam came to visit my department at the University of North Carolina, Asheville. We discussed adapting parts of the tool kit into articles for Celebrating Chemistry, which also includes an interview with Bassam.

All of this culminates in our presentation of Chemists Celebrate Earth Day 2015—“Climate Science: More Than Just a Weather Report” ( The project encompasses the publication of outreach ideas in Celebrating Chemistry, the community event of donating weather-appropriate clothing to local charities, and the ever-popular illustrated poem contest.

I hope your local section finds this Chemists Celebrate Earth Day edition of Celebrating Chemistry informative and that you can use it as a part of your outreach efforts and as a way to engage your community in the crucial discussions of climate change.

One of the great pleasures of being the chair of CCA is hearing the experiences of our many volunteers and coordinators. I applaud all coordinators for bringing the transforming power of chemistry out into the community and helping kids and parents appreciate the role chemistry plays in their lives. For the third year, CCA is recognizing outstanding volunteers with the Local Section Outreach Volunteer of the Year award. You can read the stories of the 55 honorees at the Get Involved, Stay Involved website.

In closing, thank you to all the volunteers, and remember that the word “celebrate” is prominent in the title for a reason. Outreach takes a lot of effort, but it is effort that is rewarded with a real feeling of success—along with the smiles, laughter, and perceptive questions of children eager to learn and understand.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


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