Faithful Conversations About the Science of Climate: Dr. Marshall Shepherd

You get in an elevator with one other person, and the doors close. Your elevator-riding companion turns to you and says, “You’ve got until the 40th floor to convince me that climate change is real.” What do you say?
While this is an unlikely scenario, it does make you think — how do we engage in meaningful conversation about the real, devastating changes that are happening to our planet’s climate? Educating ourselves is the first step.
Dr. Marshall Shepherd is a meteorologist, professor at the University of Georgia’s Department of Geography, the director of the university’s atmospheric sciences program, and was the president of the American Meteorological Society in 2013. He joined us at Canterbury Court for our Genesis Society Reception to lead a “Much-Needed Conversation About Weather and Climate.”
Shepherd, who describes himself as a “living, breathing scientist who believes there’s no conflict between science and faith” sees the most effective engagement in climate conversation when the discussion is rooted in solutions instead of bogged down in the science. But the science matters, he says.
“I believe too many scientists are comfortable in the ivory tower, journal space, and conferences. However, a gale of misinformation rushes in to replace the void if scientists are not communicating to the public, stakeholders, and students,” he says.
Complicated concepts can be explained with metaphors based on good science, and Shepherd demonstrated this by talking about the difference between weather and climate. He explained that weather is like your mood. Climate is like your personality. From day to day your mood varies, but your general temperament is fairly steady over time. So goes weather and climate. It may be blustery and cold one day and sunny and fair the next. But the climate remains steady over time. And our climate is steadily warming.
And another: some hear the planet may warm a few degrees and dismiss it as “not a big deal,” but think of it as a child’s fever. Adding just three degrees to a human temperature causes alarm, and shows you something’s off with your child’s health. We don’t want Earth to run a fever. But climate change is pushing the thermometer reading higher and higher.
Increasing our climate literacy helps us start conversations rooted in solutions. GIPL is rooted in solutions. Our Genesis Society, celebrated at this climate conversation event, is made up of congregations, organizations, companies, and individuals who give an annual gift equaling $1,000 or more. Join our Genesis Society here.
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We rely on this support to continue our programs, including our free green certification program for congregations – Creation Wise and our nationally-recognized Power Wise program offering professional energy audits and Energy Efficiency Matching Grants.