Do we really care about climate change? Since we do very little to reduce or limit activities that we believe we know cause climate change one could argue that we - do - not - in - fact - care.
I can almost hear you say.
At a AGU Town Hall meeting in San Francisco last night a group of engaged scientists discussed
"Directions in Climate Change Education and Communication"
In the AGU program this meeting was introduced the following way:
The compelling nature of anthropogenic climate change is well documented
in science literature. But the public and educators clearly lack
understanding and appropriate knowledge of climate change due to
legitimate confusion and deliberate obfuscation and distortion of
science knowledge by interest groups and corporate entities. This town
hall meeting will feature a short panel discussion of climate science
communication and education, and a series of small group discussions
that will conclude with short format verbal and written reports on
The panel that was first giving a short statement with their particular angle on the topic, before the audience was divided into smaller groups that discussed the issues.
The Panelists included Michael Mann, Richard Somerville, and James Hoggan.
Somerville started the show by underlining the urgency of the matter of climate change and he repeated several times that the science was clear and well understood. This is when I started to get slightly annoyed. I just came from a meeting on Extreme geohazards in Spain where we discussed among a number of other issues, the challenge of communicating uncertainty. Climate change is no differently understood than extreme geohazards in this respect - there are uncertainties.
In my view scientists should stick to communicate science and not divert to politics. It undermines their credibility - at best. At this town hall meeting the participants did not discuss communication of science - they discussed politics and strategies to influence the public, the politicians etc. That is not what I signed up for and I noticed a certain disapproval from the rest of the group when I asked James Hoggan, a renowned PR-consultant, his advice on how we as scientists could best communicate uncertainty. Unfortunately, he didn't really answer my question. His focus at this meeting was basically his books and his award winning website desmogblog. That was all fine and dandy, but I'd be more interested in tapping into his professional PR competence...
Michael E Mann was giving one piece of advice based on his experience from being attacked by the climate skeptic - in a serious way - we have to give him that, and he said that for him all these attacks represented an opportunity to be heard. Then he read out loud from his latest article in Wall Street Journal...
I maintain that communicating science should be as factual as possible
and not colored by ones subjective preferences of any kind (including
Although there were some interesting moments like the statement in the beginning of this article (since we do not do anything we maybe do not care so much about climate change), all in all it was a bit of a disappointment. The panelist basically repeated their pet climate message and the issue that interested me, namely "Directions in Climate Change Education and Communication"
wasn't so much debated. I guess I must have misunderstood that heading....
Personally, I do care about my planet and I'd love to see the climate scientists devote more time and efforts on unbiased science outreach.
Climate Change - As If We Care