RSC Belgium launched its event programme for International Year of Chemistry 2011 (IYC 2011) on 27 January with a 'heated' debate on climate change. A capacity crowd of 70 engaged in a Cafe Scientifique style discussion in the Autoworld Museum situated in the Cinquantenaire Park close to Brussels' European quarter.
The venue for the 'Cafe Chimique' was Espace53: the retro-chic restaurant 'bubble' in Autoworld. The event brought together two scientific experts on climate change with Belgium section chairman Prof Bob Crichton (centre, below) acting as Master of Ceremonies for the evening. A free bar and snacks were provided by the section to lubricate the discussion.
Of models and men
Our two speakers both based their presentations firmly on scientific view points. Prof Jean-Pascal van Ypersele (right above) studies climatology and environmental science at the Universite Catholique du Louvain (UCL) and is vice-chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). While Prof Istvan Marko (left, above) is also a researcher at UCL running the Laboratory of Organic and Medicinal Chemistry.
Both speakers gave a short opening presentation before the floor was opened to questions. The debate lasted for almost two hours and focused around a number of controversial points such as the 'chicken and egg' question: in the historical record which came first - temperature change or CO2 variation. How climate models are developed and used was also a 'hot' topic.
Before the debate got going a straw poll of the audience was made to determine their starting position on two questions: 'Is Global warming really happening?', and 'If so is it due to human activities?'.
At the start of the event our audience were overwhelmingly saying "yes" to both questions, with a slightly lower majority for the second question on the contribution from human activity.
A repeat poll at the end of the debate gave a similar result but with a distinct, and unexpected, swing towards climate scepticism.
Discussions and debate continued informally after the Q&A session while the bar remained open.
The event was a great success and the section hopes to organise at least one more Cafe Chimique on a controversial subject during IYC 2011. If you have ideas for a topic and a pair of speakers, please share your ideas with us by email.
Our next scheduled evening event for IYC 2011 is on March 1 in the Swoosh Lounge at the British School of Brussels (BSB) and will look at progress in the understanding and combating of Alzheimer's Disease. Our speaker will be Prof Jean-Noel Octave, President of the Institute of Neurosciences at UCL.