Manitoba

Winnipeg teen's climate blog wins kudos

A Winnipeg teen's online efforts to dispel myths about climate change have caught the attention of climatologists from around the world.
Winnipegger Kaitlin Alexander is still in high school, but her blog about climate change is attracting attention from the scientific community. ((CBC))
A Winnipeg teen's online efforts to dispel myths about climate change have caught the attention of climatologists from around the world.

Kaitlin Alexander, 17, writes a blog called ClimateSight.

There, she argues that there's little disagreement among scientists on what's causing the earth to warm and she has pulled together peer-reviewed research on climate change to back up her position.

She told CBC News the vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is caused by human activity. 

She pointed to a 2008 University of Illinois at Chicago survey of more than 3,000 scientists that found more than 80 per cent of scientists hold that view. 

Among climatologists, 98 per cent view global warming as a man-made problem, the survey said.

"It's a media debate, but it's not a scientific debate anymore," Alexander said.

And while the perspective that global warming is man-made is now considered mainstream opinion in the science community, Alexander said she finds many people still wonder if natural cycles of the moon or the sun are to blame.

"People who say climate change is caused by the sun, they don't have a single paper to cite," the budding climatologist said.

"They maybe have the website of some free-market think-tank. They don't have any actual science."

This sentiment reveals what Alexander considers her guiding rule when it comes to writing online: consider the source. She calls it the "credibility spectrum." 

An individual with a climate-science opinion is on the lowest end of this spectrum, she said, and international scientific organizations like NASA are on the highest end in terms of their information's credibility.

"You have to be able to tell the difference between what is actually supported by science and what isn't. … Science isn't done in the opinion pages of [the newspapers], or on the bus on the way to work," she said.

Alexander said the debate over the cause of climate change among scientists has ended.

"Scientists are about as sure as they can get — but people are still under a misconception that there is still some kind of debate going on, when there really isn't."

Experts in Europe have used Alexander's blog to make comments and add to the discussion. On ClimateSight, she writes only under the name Kate.

University of Winnipeg climatologist Danny Blair said Alexander's writing abilities belie her young age and some of those visiting the blog would likely be shocked to learn how young she is.

"I often forget that she 's 17 years old," Blair said.

"She's able to write intelligently, to comment intelligently about the fluff that's out there," Blair said. "The denial about climate change, she sees through all of that," he added.