Despite much research that demonstrates potential dangers from climate change, public concern has not been increasing.
One theory is that this is because the public is not intimately familiar with the nature of the climate uncertainties being discussed.
"A major challenge facing climate scientists is explaining to non-specialists the risks and uncertainties surrounding potential" climate change, says a new Perspectives piece published today in the science journal Nature Climate Change.
The article attempts to identify communications strategies needed to improve layman understanding of climate science.
"Few citizens or political leaders understand the underlying science well enough to evaluate climate-related proposals and controversies," the authors write, at first appearing to support the idea of specialized knowledge--that only climate scientists can understand climate research.
But, author Baruch Fischhoff quickly dispels the notion. "The goal of science communication should be to help people understand the state of the science," he says, "relevant to the decisions that they face in their private and public lives."
Fischhoff, a social and decision scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and Nick Pidgeon, an environmental psychologist at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom wrote the article together, titled, "The role of social and decision sciences in communicating uncertain climate risks."
Fischhoff and Pidgeon argue that science communication should give the public tools that will allow them to understand the uncertainties and disagreements that often underlie scientific discussion. He says that understanding is more likely to happen when people know something about the process that produces the conflicts they hear about in the press.
"Communications about climate science, or any other science, should embrace the same scientific standards as the science that they are communicating," says Fischhoff. He says this is crucial to maintaining people's trust in scientific expertise.
"When people lack expertise, they turn to trusted sources to interpret the evidence for them," Fischhoff says. "When those trusted sources are wrong, then people are misled."
Fischhoff and Pidgeon propose a communications strategy that applies "the best available communications science to convey the best available climate science." The strategy focuses on identifying, disclosing and when necessary reframing climate risks and uncertainties so the lay public can understand them easily.
"All of our climate-related options have uncertainties, regarding health, economics, ecosystems, and international stability, among other things," says Fischhoff. "It's important to know what gambles we're taking if, for example, we ignore climate issues altogether or create strong incentives for making our lives less energy intensive."
Key to effective communications is what the authors call "strategic organization" and "strategic listening."
Strategic organization involves working in cross-disciplinary teams that include, at a minimum, climate scientists, decision scientists, social and communications specialists and other experts.
Strategic listening encourages climate scientists, who often have little direct contact with the public, to overcome flawed intuitions of how well they communicate. Strategic listening asks scientists to go beyond intuitive feeling and consider how well they communicate by using systematic feedback and empirical evaluation.
"I think that it is good for scientists to be in contact with the public, so that they can learn about its concerns and see how well, or poorly, they are communicating their knowledge," says Fischhoff. "That way they can do a better job of producing and conveying the science that people need."
Fischhoff's research on science communication is funded by the National Science Foundation's Decision Risk and Management Sciences program.
Bobbie Mixon | EurekAlert!
Tile Based DASH Streaming for Virtual Reality with HEVC from Fraunhofer HHI
03.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Nachrichtentechnik Heinrich-Hertz-Institut
Product placement: Only brands placed very prominently benefit from 3D technology
07.07.2016 | Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt
For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.
According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
24.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
24.01.2017 | Life Sciences
24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy