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Climate Change 

March 10, 2012

The reports of the death of climate change science at the Academy have been greatly exaggerated

The “Altered State: Climate Change” exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences has come down after three and a half successful years. The exhibit opened with the new Academy in September, 2008 as one of the major public floor exhibits. I was the lead science curator for the exhibit, working alongside other excellent Academy staff members as well as external content developers and exhibit designers. I must admit that I was a bit sad to see the exhibit come down, for a couple of reasons. First, I personally put a lot of work into it and developed close relationships with some of the other folks who worked on it. Second, the exhibit turnover is a bit of a sign that the “new” Academy is no longer so new, and we’ve settled into our new home. On the other hand, the exhibit is being replaced replaced by an exciting new one on the science of earthquakes and plate tectonics, another topic dear to my academic heart.

Given all this, it was with mild amusement, and some irritation, that I read this nonsensical piece on the typically worthless “Watt’s up with that?” deniers’ blog by Anthony Watt. The basic premise of that post, a guest post, is the claim that the Altered State exhibit was closed down because the “Academy has given up” on climate change. The post is full of its usual deliberate misinformation, misinterpretation and misdirection, so here are a few brief facts to set the record straight.

  1. 1. The Academy has not given up on its study of anthropogenically-driven climate change, nor its efforts to provide information to the general public.
  2. 2. All the main floor exhibits that opened with the Academy in 2008 are scheduled for turnover. The exhibits are not permanent. Short-term exhibits run for 6-12 months, and long-term exhibits for 3-5 years.
  3. 3. Initial planning for the earthquake exhibit that is replacing Altered State started in 2007, even before Altered State itself was built.
  4. 4. The docent supposedly quoted in the post is not a source of information. If the quote is true, then the information offered was both unfortunate and inaccurate. Academy docents are not part of long-term exhibits planning, nor are they privy to exhibit evaluations. But, in keeping with the approach typical of Watt and his friends, no care is given to the accuracy nor reliability of sources or information.
  5. 5. By all standards of natural museum exhibits, Altered State was a smashing success.
  6. I am one of the science content advisors for the earthquake exhibit, so I know what I am talking about. That exhibit will complement a fantastic planetarium show, so I hope that you all will visit! Watt and friends included.

Filed under: Climate Change — Peter @ 10:16 pm


  1. Hi Peter,
    I’m glad you saw this – if the docent words were close to what was written in Watt’s blog then it is a good opportunity to clarify some messages to the docent community about the schedules and reasons for exhibit changes. Thanks.

    Comment by Velma — March 11, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

  2. Are any parts of the Altered State:Climat Change exhibit available for loan to other institutions? the MN Pollution Control Agency coordinates the EcoExperience building at the Minnesota State Fair each year, and is always looking for new climate change exhibit components.

    Comment by Madalyn Cioci — October 26, 2012 @ 11:57 am

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