Great read and video of the researchers in Mongolia.
Eight hundred years ago, relatively small armies of mounted warriors suddenly exploded outward from the cold, arid high-elevation grasslands of Mongolia and reshaped world geography, culture and history in ways that still resound today. How did they do it?
Tree-ring scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have worked in Mongolia since 1995. In 2010, Lamont researcher Neil Pederson and Amy Hessl of West Virginia University were seeking old trees for a study of wildfire history. High in the Khangai Mountains, north of the steppe where the long-disappeared Mongol capital of Karakorum once lay, they explored a nearly solid-rock plain of hardened lava left by a volcanic eruption some 8,000 years ago. Growing out of fissures and thin soils were thousands of gnarled, stunted larches and Siberian pines–a tree-ring scientist’s treasure. Annual rings of many species reflect rainfall or temperature in predictable ways. These can be read like books; and trees in the driest, harshest sites like this are exquisitely sensitive to rain, live to extraordinary ages, and leave trunks that may stand for centuries after they die. They are truly ancient manuscripts, writ with a fine hand.
Pederson and Hessl analyzed 17 trees to chart a yearly record of rainfall back to 658 AD. They saw that from 1211-1230—the exact time of the Mongols’ rise—central Mongolia saw one of its wettest periods ever. That time also was unusually warm, as shown by a 2001 paper from other Lamont researchers.
I struggled deciding to post this video on Communicating climate science to the public. But I opted to post it anyway to show that it is totally OK to criticize experts in your own field.
The video is not dated, despite that Columbia University hosted this event back in 2010. The issues discussed really are relevant today.
Three distinguished scientists walk you through the issues and challenges of communicating climate science to the public:
Gavin Schmidt, climate modeler at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, co-founder of the blog Real Climate.org, and co-author of a popular science book Climate Change: Picturing the Science.
Ned Gardiner, Climate Visualization Project Manager at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Climate Program Office.
Sabine Marx, Managing Director at the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) at Columbia University.
The first panelist, Gavin Schmidt, who is utterly brilliant on RealClimate.org, is flat, rambling, and just plain boring. I learned nothing from him other than his contempt for politicians, which is both repulsive for a scientist and ironic to convey considering he’s advocating communicating with them.
Gardiner brings up the fact that most Americans are terrible at reading and understanding basic charts and graphs, for example, which makes communication really difficult for the scientist. Good point, but he doesn’t provide a solution.
And that’s basically how I felt throughout the entire hour+ while watching this - smart people discussing simplified themes with contempt for the public and the politicians they (we) voted to represent us.
True, the panelists are experts in their fields. They are revered, credentialed scientists with public personas. This brings much needed credibility to the conceptual problem of communicating science to the public. But they don’t do a great job of explaining the difficulties of communication, nor do they provide tested examples with any sort of stickiness. Gardiner dances around this issue of getting scientific concepts to stick, and he points to the media’s lack of scientific understanding. But he just misses his opportunity to nail his points home with any clarity.
My gut thinks this talk was rather generic and vague and overall does a disservice to the important concept of communicating science.
You might be asking: If Michael is so sour on this talk, why did he even post it? I think it’s to show that even experts in communications struggle with the issue of communicating science with the public. For example, their personal biases shade their overall points.On the one hand, they want their fellow scientists to make greater efforts to communicate with politicians. On the other, the panelists spent several minutes completely dismissing and condescending those very same politicians.
And maybe that’s my secondary point of posting this. That critical thinking is required when watching these talks. Just because someone is respected in their field doesn’t mean that they’re any good at advocating for change. In other words, it’s OK to be critical of the critics…
It’s Climate Science Communications Week at Climate Adaptation! For the entire week of Feb. 18 - 23, I’ll cover how climate change is discussed by the media, scientists, researchers, academics, and politicians. If you have sources or ideas on communicating climate change, send to: http://climateadaptation.tumblr.com/submit