What we know today about climate change owes a lot to a glass of whisky. This is just one of the facts we learned on the interactive roaming exhibition rolling around France to raise awareness about climate change leading up to the COP21 climate summit in Paris in December.
We were greeted by one of the scientists who form part of the messenger team. “We live on the train, and stop at a different town each day,” said Dr Hélène Planquette, oceanographer and researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique CNRS, France’s largest governmental research organisation, “we are open at each of the stops from 10am to 7pm. Today we had twelve school groups filing through. We are tired, but a really good kind of tired.”
On the first railway carriage, we learn about the fundamental principles that govern the world’s climate. It was the bubbles in his glass of whisky that gave French glaciologist Claude Lorius the ‘aha!’ moment. He observed that as the ice cubes melted, they released tiny bubbles of trapped air. Similarly, the air bubbles trapped in the glaciers could give climate scientists the ability to trace samples of the atmosphere through several hundred thousand years of history, critical to understanding climate change.
The videos, animations, and interactive exhibits on the Train du Climat are clear, easy to understand, and thought provoking. The second part of the exhibition deals with the effect that mankind has had on the climate, and what would happen if we did nothing (not good news). The third section is devoted to what we can do to adapt to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Train du Climat was seen off from Paris Gare de Lyon on Tuesday October 6 by Environment Minister Segolene Royal and other high-level officials, on a three-week trek across 19 towns. The 350m-long train will have covered 700km and hosted thousands of visitors by the time it gets to its final destination of Nancy, in eastern France, on October 25.