Fighting a Headwind: Communicating the Science of Climate Change in a Hostile Environment

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 1:52 PM
Michael E Mann, Penn State University, University Park, PA, United States
I will share experiences and insights that I have accumulated over the course of my own efforts to inform the public about the reality and threat of climate change. I will discuss the various challenges we scientists confront in our efforts to inform the public discourse on climate change. Chief among them is the headwind we must fight of a concerted disinformation effort intended to confuse the public about the strength of the underlying scientific evidence. The late Stephen Schneider spoke eloquently of the double ethical bind that we face: we must strive to communicate effectively but honestly, even in the face of an opposition that is unfettered by this latter constraint. We must convey what is known in plainspoken jargon-free language, while acknowledging the real uncertainties that exist. Further, we must explain the implications of those uncertainties, which in many cases imply the possibility of greater, not lesser, risk. Finally, we must not be averse to discussing the policy implications of the science, lest we fail to provide our audience with critical information that can help them make informed choices about their own actions as citizens.