Thursday, July 28, 2016

Communicating Climate Change - Resources

Today is the last day of the Democratic National Convention, following last week's Republican National Convention. The differences between the parties could not be more stark on virtually every issue, including climate change. In short, Democrats acknowledge the unequivocal science of man-made climate change; Republicans deny it. Meanwhile, climate scientists are concerned that they have underestimated the magnitude and speed of the problem. It could be much worse than we already know.

Communicating the science of climate change to the public can be challenging when there are entire lobbying industries intent on misleading that public. This post is intended to provide some resources to scientists and informed public on how to communicate the science.

Recently I was reading my notes on a book I had read several years ago but for which I never wrote a full review. That book was called Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style by Randy Olson, a long-time scientist who gave up his university professor job to become a full time science communicator. Olson's specialty is film making, so not surprisingly he advocates the use of visual effects whenever possible. The main title reminds scientists to stop talking to the public as if the public was the audience of a scientific conference. The subtitle is reminiscent of Marshall McLuhan's The Medium is the Massage, that is, that "substance is style" (or, "style is the substance"). In short, scientists need to stop trying to communicate every detail of the science to the public and focus more on getting the main points across in a way that isn't boring. Motivate and educate, arouse and fulfill. [I'll have a full review of the book in the future]

The ability to communicate science to the public and to policy makers is critical for our well-being. I've mentioned several other books on science communication in these pages. Click on the links below for full book reviews:

Am I Making Myself Clear? A Scientist's Guide to Talking to the Public by Cornelia Dean

Unscientific America: How Science Illiteracy Threatens Our Future by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum

Escape from the Ivory Tower: A Guide to Making Your Science Matter by Nancy Baron (link to Goodreads)

The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics by Roger A. Pielke, Jr. (Note that the author is more often than not supportive of the denier lobby, but this book offers useful insights that all scientists should consider)

In addition to books, there are several posts on this page that have discussions about science communication:

Communicating Climate Science - The Series (a four part series examining how scientists do research and how they can communicate to other scientists, policy makers, and the public)

The Science of Communicating Science (including how to translate common scientific terms into English)

Science Communication: How to Deal with Trolls on Facebook

Scroll down this link to see other climate communication posts.

In the future I'll have more on other resources for communicating the science.