Integrating Communication Best Practices in the Third National Climate Assessment

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 10:50 AM
Susan Joy Hassol, Climate Communication, Durham, NC, United States
Modern climate science assessments now have a history of nearly a quarter-century. This experience, together with important advances in relevant social sciences, has greatly improved our ability to communicate climate science effectively. As a result, the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA) was designed to be truly accessible and useful to all its intended audiences, while still being comprehensive and scientifically accurate. At a time when meeting the challenge of climate change is increasingly recognized as an urgent national and global priority, the NCA is proving to be valuable to decision-makers, the media, and the public.

In producing this latest NCA, a communication perspective was an important part of the process from the beginning, rather than an afterthought as has often been the case with scientific reports. Lessons learned from past projects and science communications research fed into developing the communication strategy for the Third NCA. A team of editors and graphic designers worked closely with the authors on language, graphics, and photographs throughout the development of the report, Highlights document, and other products. A web design team helped bring the report to life online. There were also innovations in outreach, including a network of organizations intended to extend the reach of the assessment by engaging stakeholders throughout the process. Professional slide set development and media training were part of the preparation for the report’s release. The launch of the NCA in May 2014 saw widespread and ongoing media coverage, continued references to the NCA by decision-makers, and praise from many quarters for its excellence in making complex science clear and accessible. This NCA is a professionally crafted report that exemplifies best practices in 21st century communications.