Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Stop Blogging, Start Doing

If you only read one post, read this one. I’ve written a lot about the problems plaguing public engagement with climate science, and what we might do to boost it. This post sums up the conclusions from my work, various studies and lectures mentioned over the past three months.

The Problem
There exists a gap between the needs of society and the current role of climate science (Rapley & Meyer 2014). The science isn’t engaging, and despite the scientific consensus and increasing certainty, a large proportion of the public either do not believe in climate change, do not believe in human forcing, or do not consider the problem big enough to warrant action (Leiserowitz et al 2014).

1)     Framing: discussions of climate change should be tailored and targeted to specific audiences. Doing away with scientific complexity to make the problem identifiable and understandable. Examples: Stories, Benefits orientated approach, removing enemies and selecting heroes, economic framing, health framing, human ingenuity, technological advancement....
2)     Recognize that climate change is here and now to combat the economics of discounting and  appeal to the side of the brain that prioritizes threats.
3)     Credible, transparent and regular information from scientists, government and communicators. Perhaps mediated by a new formal institution that not only provides scientists with communicative skills, improving the impact of journals, but helps build a social marketing campaign.
4)     A single party government intent on ‘out-greening’ the opposition, with will to make individual beneficial choices easier and financial impetus for large capital.
5)     Engage all stakeholders for climate change (which means EVERYONE) to help educate, deliberate and incentivize action.

There are obviously many many more potential avenues for improving societies engagement with science. I find that more and more scientific evidence isn’t helping, we know that climate change is a problem, what we need now is to see a) the potential effects and how we can mitigate against them and b) how to inspire action. A radical shake-up is needed and perhaps as Naomi Oreskes says it is time to disband the IPCC and repurpose their funding to  help people recognize the work that’s been done, because at the moment the fact that the IPCC drafts are being used in control groups for the understanding of climate change isn’t exactly helping.

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