Perhaps the most disquieting section is “Consequences of Climate Change,” which features “before and after” images of affected sites worldwide. An aerial photograph of Greenland in 2016 shows lakes and rivers that were not there in 2014 — that is how fast the ice is melting. If you turn a dial labeled “How Will Our Lives Change,” you see a graphic present a succession of possible outcomes, like disease spread, food shortages and political instability.
But, Dr. Kinzler cautioned, “what will happen is related to what humans choose to do, which is frankly less about the science and more about societal questions and policy.” This is where hope creeps in. The display specifies the risks if warming continues unabated, but a video also explains local efforts like the NYC CoolRoofs initiative, a plan to reduce carbon emissions by painting rooftops with a heat-reflective white coating.
Opposite the wall, another interactive exhibit documents how climate changed before human intervention. It includes a model of a Greenland ice core — a kind of 110,000-year-old time capsule — as well as objects like a glacial rock from Central Park.
Climate research also appears in other areas of the museum. “Worlds Beyond Earth,” a new Hayden Planetarium show that opened in January, shows how studying other planets’ atmospheres provides clues to climate change here. And the Hall of Biodiversity, which includes a model of an African rain forest, illustrates how climate change affects ecosystems.
All these departments will play a role in EarthFest. Scheduled for April 18, four days before Earth Day, the festival will offer “a mix of science, art, performance, participatory experiences and hands-on activities,” said Alonso Teruel, assistant director of public programs. “Everything will be climate change oriented.”
Science presentations will include a planetarium-focused program and a new museum video highlighting the developments and challenges since Earth Day 1970. For young visitors, EarthFest will host Superhero Clubhouse, a Brooklyn organization whose Big Green Theater program helps elementary school students write original plays on environmental themes.