A basic challenge in complex modern society: how does one translate expert opinion on complex issues into broader discussion? This is true for almost every domain of our society, whether discussing nutrition or infrastructure investment requirements or budgetary issues or climate disruption. As for the last, many have been seeking to foster paths for scientists to communicate better with the public. (An excellent (eminently readable and insightful) example of this is Randy Olsen‘s Don’t Be Such a Scientist. Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum‘s Unscientific America: How scientific illiteracy threatens our future is another top of the reading list choice looking at this challenge.)
One of the key challenges: helping the public understand the difference between pseudo-experts and true specialists to help foster an understanding as to who to listen to amid the truthiness- and falsehood-laden discussions seeking to confuse the public about climate disruption threats and climate mitigation opportunities. Many paths are occurring to take this on, such as the Google Climate Communicators to the Climate Rapid Response Team to efforts for including public communications as part of the graduate-level educational programs for scientists. Some people take a different path, such as these rapping climate scientists asking — and answering — a simple question: Who is a climate scientist?
This is from the Australian Hungry Beast show. As these scientists rap out
yo….we’re climate scientists.. and there’s no denying this Climate Change Is REEEEALL..
The problem, of course, is that there is a robust industry of misdirection and deception seeking to make us question that reality and to forestall meaningful action that would threaten the status quo (and the mega-profits of fossil-foolish industries).
I said Burn! it’s hot in here..
32% more carbon in the atmosphere.
Oh Eee Ohh Eee oh wee ice ice ice
Raisin’ sea levels twice by twice
We’re scientists, what we speak is True.
Unlike Andrew Bolt our work is Peer Reviewed… ooohhh
Let’s be clear, there are a lot of complicated issues in the world and perhaps none more than climate science. And, well, many of the scientific terms translate with difficulty into the general discussion. “Positive Feedback” sounds pretty good, no? Or, well, “Theory” means lots of uncertainty, no?
Feedback is like climate change on crack
The permafrosts subtracts: feedback
Methane release wack : feedback..
Write a letter then burn it: feedback
Denialists deny this in your dreams
Coz climate change means greater extremes,
Shit won’t be the norm
Heatwaves bigger badder storms
The Green house effect is just a theory sucker (Alan Jones)
Yeah so is gravity … float away muther f**cker
And, well, let us be clear that “extremes” is another of those highly complicated issues to consider. “Climate change”, in many ways, is better described as “climate disruption” and “climate chaos” because the ‘change’ won’t necessarily be some incremental shift which enables adaptation and evolution, fostering minor shifts. So what if there is a few percent more rainfall? Oops, what if it doesn’t come as often and, when it comes, it comes in deluges of many inches? More droughts and more floods means disrupted agricultural production, threats to infrastructure, uneven water (and, in many cases, power) supplies, … And, this is true across so many different domains.
Communicating science is difficult — especially when there are legions of people seeking to confuse with disinformation rather than enlighten with truthful discussion. Here are some climate scientists seeking new tools for communication to help us understand who seeks to enlighten and inform.
Hat tip to Gareth in Climate Rap: Scientists fight back.
PS: For a discussion of and example of using counter-intuitive communication methods, see Randy Olsen’s What can a good video do for you? Just take a look at Science Cheerleader’s video!