At last! The Climate Outreach Communications Handbook for IPCC Scientists (lead author Dr Adam Corner) is out, packed full of information for tongue-tied scientists who’ve never mentioned climate change to a non-scientist before and don’t know how to. It was commissioned by the IPCC Working Group 1 Technical Support Unit and has an introduction by Dr Roz Pidcock, IPCC WG1’s head of communication.
Dr Roz starts off by listing the problems that beset climate communication:
Climate science is filled with uncertainties, a notorious stumbling block for communicating with non-scientists.
It’s a well-known fact that people have difficulty understanding the concept of uncertainty. For instance, if you say to them: “We expect the storms to die down on Thursday” or: “We haven’t got any in stock, but we hope to have a delivery tomorrow” or: “I think I left it on the table, but I’m not sure”, people start to panic, get confused, and may burst into tears. So don’t do uncertainty. Do certainty.
That our worldviews, values and social norms dictate how we receive information and apply it to our own lives is well understood.
For example, Dr Roz’s worldviews are expressed in the articles she writes at Carbon Brief, Truth-out, Resilience, Sciencemag, Climateandcapitalism, Responsiblebusiness, Countercurrents, Reneweconomy, Eco-business, Thinklab, etc. They dictate how she receives information, where she receives it from, and how she dictates it back to you and me. That’s another reason she doesn’t do uncertainty. It’s not one of her values or social norms.
It has also long been recognised that the messenger is at least as important, if not more so, than the message itself. Scientists are trusted in society and there are a wealth of opportunities to engage the public around key moments in the climate change calendar, such as the release of IPCC reports.
Hang on. We’re facing vanishing island states, murderous heatwaves, wars, and invasions by hundreds of thousands of climate refugees, and Dr Roz’s idea of a “key moment in the climate change calendar” is the release of a report? It’s once every five years for Gaia’s sake. Science communicators are going to have time on their hands.
I’m going to settle down in the garden and read the rest of it now. But I know already that author Dr Corner is not worried by scepticism. The word only comes up once in the seventeen page document:
most people in most countries surveyed accept that climate change is a reality and is at least in part caused by humans, and are concerned about it to some extent. So there is no need to worry unduly about widespread scepticism towards climate change.
So that’s alright then.
There’s a nice photo on the back page of two renewable energy experts perched on a solar power array. The description from the German photo agency reads:
Cleaning the photovoltaic facility on roof of Federal Ministry of Labour and the Environment, installed with 100 kilowatts peak output kwp by Solon AG, Berlin, Germany, August 5, 2004.
It shows two chaps on a rather complicated looking sloping sliding ladder affair; one brushing the dust out from between the panels with a broom, the other cleaning them with a mop and a bucket.
I read somewhere that to produce a decent amount of solar energy you’d need to cover an area the size of Berkshire with panels. And then presumably employ a workforce the size of the population of Berkshire to keep them looking nice. Do we have enough environmental studies graduates to do the job? Do we have enough mops and brooms?
The photo dates from 2004. In 2011, Solon AG, the manufacturers of the solar panels in the photo, filed for bankruptcy. The remains of the company were taken over by the Indian company Microsol and in 2014 the company was moved to the United Arab Emirates.