A scientist on Mount Erebus, Ross Island, Antarctica. Photograph: George Steinmetz/Corbis
Take one arcane and evolving scientific discipline. Add the future of energy security, economics and geopolitics. Throw in a handful of ideological baggage from across the political spectrum, season with ulterior motives, and simmer for 20 years.
Given this unique recipe, it’s not surprising that the climate change debate has thrown up more than its fair share of confusion, misinformation and divisiveness.
Is the science surrounding man-made warming basically settled, or is there ongoing debate among climate scientists? If climate change is happening, how concerned should we be? Who will we be affected – and how and when? What’s the worst-case scenario? How realistic are the proposed solutions? And can we afford them anyway?
These and countless other important questions have been explored in depth in journals, reports and books, but they are rarely dealt with in an accessible way. As a result, it can be difficult to get a handle on what’s known, what’s unknown and what’s actually important.
It’s in this context that environmentguardian.co.uk is launching the Ultimate Climate Change FAQ. The plan is to build up a set of clear, accurate and balanced answers to all the questions that our readers have ever asked themselves about climate change.
The initial aim is for the Guardian team – with help from various partners and, crucially, our readers – to amass the world’s best layman-friendly online guide to all aspects of climate change, from the science to the politics, economics and more. We will also be looking to partner with expert organisations and individuals to inform the project, and are pleased to announce the first of those organisations is the Met Office, which will be offering scientific advice.
But we hope that content could eventually have a life well beyond our own site, whether that means posters for schools and workplaces or selections of key questions and answers licensed freely to other publications and websites. If there’s a particular format you think would be useful, let us know in the comments and we’ll see what we can do.
We’d also like your suggestions for what questions to answer next, of course. And that invitation extends to everyone – from dark-green types through to climate sceptics who doubt the existence or significance of man-made global warming. Our aim is to cut through all types of ideology to get to the best understanding possible.
So whatever your perspective, post your questions in this form and we will do our best to come back with answers.
The FAQ is embryonic at this stage, and it remains to be seen how it will develop. This is a collaborative project and we want you to help us shape it – so let us know below how you’d like it to evolve.
I’ll be back here on the environment blog in a few days to respond, report back on the most frequently asked questions and move the project forward.