3.2 Connecting the dots between climate change, extreme weather, and localized impacts

Tuesday, 25 January 2011: 8:45 AM
618-620 (Washington State Convention Center)
Amanda Staudt, BASC, Reston, VA; and A. Weinmann

Recent surveys indicate that a significant fraction of Americans are uncertain what to think about climate change or have views that are not in keeping with scientific understanding. At the same time, the media landscape is rapidly shifting, with implications for how scientists can best engage in the public discourse. The declining number of environmental journalists employed at mainstream newspapers is particularly worrisome for communicating about an issue as complicated and multifaceted as climate change. To address these challenges, we produced a series of small reports that connect the dots between climate change, extreme weather events, and the consequences for natural resources, public health, wildlife, and recreation opportunities. These reports present the latest science in bite-sized portions, focus on local impacts, and provide concrete recommendations for policy and resource management action to address the climate challenges. Each report was accompanied by aggressive media outreach, including a telephone press briefing featuring relevant experts, radio and television appearances, grassroots efforts to highlight the issue in local media markets, and blogging and other on-line components. This climate science communication effort has achieved broad media coverage, especially when considering the relatively modest scale of the reports. We attribute the success to the following factors: (1) choosing topics of direct relevance to large segments of the American population; (2) an emphasis on including localized information desirable for smaller media outlets; (3) the short, accessible nature of the reports; (4) our efforts to provide a complete story along with relevant experts to reporters who otherwise might not have time to identify these resources; and (5) a multi-pronged media strategy.
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