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Posts tagged "communication"

Matthew C. Nisbet examines writer-turned-activist Bill McKibben’s career and impact on the debate over climate change, in a new paper released by the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University.

Security signs that begin with “For your protection…” essentially end with “…we will restrict freedoms and invade privacy.”

Meteorologist Paul Huttner sits down weekly with MPR ‘Daily Circuit’ host to explore new climate science findings and warming impacts statewide and beyond.

A Minnesota Public Radio meteorologist is venturing where many of his peers in commercial broadcasting have feared to tred: MPR’s Paul Huttner, with top management sharing his concerns that the media are under-informing their audiences on climate change, has begun a weekly “Climate Cast” program.

Now listening. Seems promising! How to add to itunes?

This is result of a 1 degree Celsius rise in temperatures. The chart is from the World Bank and it shows the rate of melting ice from 1983 to 2012. The temperature across the world is expected to rise by nearly 4 degrees Celsius, which greatly exceeds the above impacts. 


Turn Down the Heat, a new report from the World Bank, presents the many compelling reasons why we need to avoid a 4 degree Celsius temperature increase (the trajectory we are currently on to reach by the end of this century.)

This troubling graphic from the NSIDC shows just how quickly climate change has already taken a toll on arctic sea ice since 1983.

But, there are two buckets of trouble here. First is the nearly endless troubles from melting ice on human and natural environments. Mass ice melt causes sea level rise, which destroys coastlines, habitat, deltas, mangroves, coral reefs, and of course cities and tourism.

Melting glaciers will also disrupt the flow of rivers, aquifer recharge, and electricity (hydropower and nuclear power). Many rivers around the world get their water from glaciers, and the same holds for aquifers, which fuel drinking water and irrigation supplies to billions around the world.

Take the glaciers in the Andes mountains for one example. Several have already disappeared, completely melting away. They’re melting faster than scientists predicted, and Peru has asked the United States for emergency funds to build damns to contain the water produced from the last remaining glaciers. The damns, in other words, would store the water rather than glaciers. There are too many to list here, but the effects are enormous. 

The second problem is much simpler, but deeply embarrassing: 4 degree Celsius. Americans do not understand Celsius, they understand (sort of) temperature in terms of Fahrenheit.

Nearly all climate change reporting focuses on 2 to 4 degrees Celsius. We hear it so often from the UN, IPCC, even the US National Climate Assessment quotes Celsius. The problem is that it is not true!

The projected rise in temperatures will vary across the globe. Temperatures in New England are expected to rise by nearly 6-10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of 2100. But this isn’t the case for the Pacific Northwest, where temperatures are expected to rise by as little as 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, not only is reporting one common number (2 degrees Celsius) confusing for Americans, it’s not even a relevant number. As comical and embarrassing as those facts are, there’s no escaping American Ignorance.

This is a major communications problem that scientists just do not grasp. American’s think in terms of their own communities and regions. New England will not feel the same types of impacts as the Southwest, and the folks in each of these regions think very little of the temperatures elsewhere. (I know, there are a few exceptions).

Why did I bring this Celsius vs Fahrenheit issue up? The United States is the most powerful country in the world (despite our education and health deficiencies). The rest of the world, including the World Bank, which put out the above report on climate, requires U.S. support. Climate change solutions require American support. And if scientists refuse to speak the native language, no one is going to listen…

WHOOPS! MoJo, you really flubbed this one. 1) Writing that the “entire surface of Greenland melted” sounds like a volcano-apocalypse. 2) The fact that you’re referring to the top layer of ice is not mentioned or evident nor made clear, and 3) this simply misinforms your readers.

You all can interpret science better.


For several days this month virtually the entire surface of Greenland melted—an area larger than ever seen in 30 years of satellite observations.

This is the dilemma we face: in order to counter nonsense, we are doomed to be ever seen as dismissive critics of people’s beliefs. In this view, to me it is not a coincidence that people have this conception of us. Because there is orders of magnitude more pseudoscience than science out there, we are always too busy shooting down the junk to do much else. It is imperative that we continue to do this, but if we want people to understand the full range of skepticism we have to also stress the affirmatives. We need to live up to the charge of promoting science and critical thinking. In my observations, this is accomplished primarily within the skeptical community, and any outside exposure that we choose to endorse or create is mainly “debunking.” Don’t misunderstand me, debunking is a worthy cause and someone has to do it, but I want this movement to be positive. We need to be actually thought of as positive by the public, no matter what we may tell ourselves. This is my call to the skeptical community: we need to get into the habit of promoting good science, critical thinking skills, and good causes in equal amounts with debunking (or at least more than we do now).
Kyle Hill explains how as a skeptic he’s faced with the “Debunker’s Dilemma”: seen that there’s a lot more misinformation and pseudoscience than science, it could appear that skeptic positions are always negative. He says that because of this “to the public a skeptic equals a cynic”. He urges skeptics to do The Opposite of Debunking. Skeptics need to show their passion about science and rationality and to promote scientific inquiry and critical thinking skills. (via scipsy)

(via scipsy)

Asker nature-lust Asks:
Hi there, I need some help. My family is a bit on the conservative (denial) side and I don't know how to explain to them what's going with the global climate change. I just basically need help with putting everything in Layman's terms.
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hey nature lust

Thanks for your msg.

I tend to believe that explaining is listening. I’ll talk a little about my approach below, but tbh if you’re just looking for bullet points to memorize, skip this post and go here.

In my experience, people like to be heard and hate being wrong. So, in my opinion, just take your time and listen to what your people are saying. Paraphrase it, repeat it back to them. Take their opinions seriously. Use empathy and be nice. No name calling. At the end of the day, they’re deniers because they’ve been convinced that climate change is code for government regulation. Their denial generally has nothing to do with the science.

After you’ve gained some trust and you want to deepen those conversations, follow the rules of debating.

Second, like lifting the Hammer of Thor, realize that it’s super hard to change someone’s mind. Most people accept their version of reality on authority. Understand, truly understand, that getting someone to stop watching Fox News is like getting a liberal to stop reading the New York Times - it’s epically impossible.

Sub to this is to realize that most people (e.g., the vast majority) really don’t care about environmental topics. It’s boring. So, approach your conversations with love and empathy, and realize that you’re more likely to fail to persuade or inform. 

Third, and most importantly, deniers generally accept that the earth is getting warmer. This may surprise you! It’s getting warmer, they’ll say, because it’s “earth’s natural cycle” or it’s “sun spots/solar flares” or it’s “El Nino,” etc. Something along those lines. Basically, they place the cause on natural occurrences not on humans, and then rant about regulations. So, the real causes - human emitted CO2 and GHGs - are all but utter impossibilities to the denier.

Sure, you’ll hear conspiracy theories - like scientists churn out papers just for the research money. Or that a handful of dissenting scientists are being censored, and therefore the truth is being hidden. Or that tree ring data is a fraud. Or maybe you’ll hear some garbage about hacked emails. Or - my favorite - that the IPCC is run by the UN, which is out for world domination. Etc. People who take these tacks are not worth your time. Skip talking with them about climate and just enjoy their company (it’s more dignifying, trust me).

If you genuinely listen and paraphrase, you’ll find that most of the burden is ultimately placed on the denier. You can keep your set of facts on the back burner, and discuss what they want to discuss.

Instead of blurting out a list of science-bullets, which no one cares about, get them to talk talk talk. A lot.

Ultimately, it’ll come out that the reason they’re denying climate science is because they politically don’t like government regulation. Strangely, they may not even realize this. But, preventing the regulation of carbon emissions is what this whole thing is about. If the denier can safely point to “sun spots,” then they won’t have to support any regulations. Case closed.

What’s really bizarre about all this is why, really think about this, why would a group of people want to protect carbon emitters? All I can do is point you to the Oreskes fabulous book, Merchants of Doubt.

This may not be exactly what you’re looking for, but that’s how I approach deniers - by listening.

Good luck and cheers!


Update: is not a nice person and sends hate mail.



How Much Water Does it Take to Make Your Food?

Today is World Water Day. 

The UN has a site about water and food security issues here.

Image: 142 liters of water are needed to produce the 8 tomatoes, 1.5 slices of bread and portion of butter to make this meal. Via the UN World Water Day Flickr account.

Now we’re running out of water?? Really! I live on the mississippi river. there’s plenty. seriously come on over. Now; when I was a child we were gonna be out of oil by the year 2000. so I am skeptical.

Buffoonery. 780 million people don’t have access to water. 2.5 billion do not have access to a toilet. 4,000 children die from dirty water daily (about 100,000 kids per month). Yet, above, we see a Tea Party libertarian dave1963x stating that their problems are illusory because he lives near the Mississippi River.

I point this out as evidence that environmentalists have a problem - their education campaigns (even ones that show dead children) do not change the minds of ignorant people. For those that refuse or hand pick facts, only the leaders of their chosen ideology can change minds.

Perhaps, then, it’s time the left start communicating with the leaders of opposite stripes.

(via dave1963x-deactivated20131231)

…you don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.
NPR’s Ira Flatow interviewing famed climate scientist Michael Mann on how climate scientists need to buck-up and engage in promoting and defending science.

A sweet list on environmental communication, all free! A sampling:


Wynne, B. (2009).  Interview: Rationality and Ritual.  In Cayley, D. Ed, Ideas:  On the Nature of Science.  Frederickton, CA: Goose Lane. [Also listen to episode.]

Brossard, D., & Lewenstein, B. V. (2009). A Critical Appraisal of Models of Public Understanding of Science: Using Practice to Inform Theory. In L. Kahlor & P. Stout (Eds.), Communicating Science: New Agendas in Communication (pp. 11-39). New York: Routledge.

Hartings, MR and Fahy, D. (2011). Communicating Chemistry for Public Engagement. Nature Chemistry. Vol 3.September, pp 674-677. [PDF]

Kitcher, P. (2010). The Climate Change Debates. Science. 328. 4 June. 1230-1234.


Guber, D. & Bosso, C. (2009).  Past the Tipping Point? Public Discourse and the Role of the Environmental Movement in a Post-Bush Era.  In Environmental Policy: New Directions for the 21st Century, 7th ed., Norman Vig and Michael Kraft, eds. CQ Press, 2009: 51-74.

Schellenberger, M. & Nordhaus, T. (2004).  The Death of Environmentalism:  Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World. The Breakthrough Institute. [PDF]


Fahy, J. & Nisbet, M.C. (2011). The Science Journalist Online: Shifting Roles and Emerging Practices.  Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism. [HTML]

Revkin, A. (2011).  Conveying the Climate Story. Presentation to the Google Science Communication Fellows Program. [Watch the Online Video]

Read the rest of the list at Climate Shift Project. here.

Derrick and I decided to create this book after discussing Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. We agreed that the film presented the problem of global warming in a compelling, appropriately urgent way. But when it came time to guide people to action, it was worse than inadequate—it was misleading. Gore’s list of “10 Things You Can Do” (and countless other lists like it) directs the audience’s attention away from the source of the problem, industrialization, and it attempts to convince us to blame ourselves instead. It asserts that if we modify our behavior as “consumers” (change our light bulbs, adjust our thermostats), then we can save the planet. This is a lie.

What this list didn’t show was the math. We did. If every person in the United States did everything that Al Gore recommends at the end of the film, there would be a one-time reduction of CO2 emissions of 21%. Obviously that’s not going to put much of a dent in the problem. More importantly, it leaves the worst polluters, big corporations, off the hook. Exxon-Mobil alone is responsible for 5% of all global CO2 emissions. The US military consumes 395,000 barrels of oil a day. Do you think dismantling that might be more effective than obsessing about not leaving our refrigerator doors open? Yet the latter is what we are told to focus on. We are told, over and over, that the only power we have is over our own lifestyles, and specifically as “consumers”—how very conveeeeenient for those who profit from the murder of our planet and then profit again from selling us “green” products.

This is a military perspective on adaptation and sustainability. Fantastic, fast-paced talk.

Naval Captain Wayne Porter and Col. Mark Mykleby of the Marines, military strategists working at the highest level of government, present highlights from their paper, “A National Strategic Narrative.” Their ideas—less military force, more social capital and more sustainable practices in energy and agriculture—have caused a recent stir in policy communities.

Shameless plug - Mark Mykleby spoke at our GreenGov conference last week, which we ran with the White House. We invited him to speak on the Communicating Climate and Risk panel with friends and colleagues of mine from BNA and USC. Mark is a great speaker and can fired up any room. If you have a chance after the video, read A National Strategic Narrative.

Innovate way to connect science to personal reality. This might mark a much needed breakthrough in communicating climate science. More soon. 

People Under 35 Have Never Seen Normal Global Temperatures

When you compare today’s climate to data from 1850-1940, when the climate was “normal” and fluctuated up and down around a steady baseline, a troubling discovery pops up. The last time that the global average temperature was below the “normal” was in 1976

So if you’re younger than 35, a warming Earth is your new normal. Temperatures go up and down across the globe year by year.

But when you extend the data out to 30-100 years, you can start to smooth out those fluctuations and see more gradual trends (the image at the top). That’s what the “normal” temperature seeks to describe.

I suggest you check out Grumbine’s full post to learn what these “normals” mean, how they are calculated and why these recent temperatures are significant.

(via ThinkProgress)

(via jtotheizzoe)