KS.1 Resources to Help Scientists Communicate Climate Science (Invited Presentation)

Wednesday, 13 January 2016: 9:00 AM
Room 340/341 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Richard C. J. Somerville, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, La Jolla, CA

Handout (11.8 MB)

Sound science can inform wise policy, and coping successfully with climate change is an urgent global challenge that requires scientific input. Today many scientists have opportunities to communicate what science has learned about climate and climate change. Yet being a scientific expert on these subjects does not necessarily mean having the skills to communicate effectively to a broad audience. A scientist giving a television interview, or writing an op-ed piece for a newspaper, or speaking to a group of local business leaders, or testifying before Congress, is engaged in an educational activity, but one which is very different from teaching graduate students. Like learning to ski or to drive a car skillfully, learning to communicate climate science well takes time and effort. Effective communication should always resemble a conversation rather than a monologue. A key to successful communication is clear and simple messages, repeated often, by a variety of trusted messengers. For many audiences, the most trusted messengers are those who understand and respect the worldview and cultural values of those with whom they are communicating. Knowledge, including knowledge about climate science, should never be communicated as a mere catalogue of facts. Science is an insightful process, a powerful tool for understanding the natural world, and a fascinating human activity. A great deal is already known about how to do a better job of science communication, but relatively few scientists have made good use of this knowledge. Many scientists are unaware of the resources available to help them do a better job at communicating climate science. In addition, a well-funded and effective professional disinformation campaign has been successful in sowing widespread confusion about climate change. As a result, many people mistakenly think climate change science is unreliable or is controversial within the expert community. Thus, one urgent task for climate scientists is to give the public useful guidelines for recognizing and rejecting junk science and disinformation. This talk will provide practical information and directions to valuable resources, starting with those available at https://www.climatecommunication.org/.

Supplementary URL: http://www.richardsomerville.com

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