Another day, another climate!

co2_graph  By now, the idea of climate change should be fully entrenched. We’ve all seen graphs like this one (from NASA’s SEAWIFS programme) which, in this case, links CO2 with primary productivity. However, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that this just isn’t happening. A set of events came together this week to suggest we might need to look more closely at the picture.

It started with the UN climate conference. The basic argument, as presented on their main page is:

Climate change is not a far-off problem. It is happening now and is having very real consequences on people’s lives. Climate change is disrupting national economies, costing us dearly today and even more tomorrow.  But there is a growing recognition that affordable, scalable solutions are available now that will enable us all to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies.”

So far, so good. We recognise that climate change (which, where it is made explicit at all, should refer to rate of change i.e. the rate outstrips our ability to respond adequately to it) is something we should be proactive about. Of course, it’s just not that simple. Here’s where the other evidence fell into place:

  • We need to gain a wide consensus for action (and this just isn’t reaching critical mass at the moment. Organisations like Climate Action might be the way forward;
  • We need to get the message out there in ways people can understand and which fits with our best ideas of climate science. This TED talk might be a start;
  • We might want to produce reports that focus on different areas and different perspectives so that as wide an audience as possible is drawn into the debate.

And, there again, we might not! What if we are looking at the wrong end of the problem? What if we are trying to sell a message that people don’t believe? Perhaps the most telling piece comes from PNAS and looks at credibility. As the abstract says:

“Expertise is a prerequisite for communicator credibility, entailing the knowledge and ability to be accurate. Trust also is essential to communicator credibility. Audiences view trustworthiness as the motivation to be truthful. Identifying whom to trust follows systematic principles.”

Perhaps the problem is not the climate but the perception of those who talk about it. If we are concerned about literacy in education, then perhaps we might want to add communication skills to the science curriculum?


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