Tag: science

Time to Take Action on Climate Communication

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | November 19, 2010 12:34 pm

Go visit ClimateEngage.org to endorse this initiative. What follows is the full letter as published in today’s Science:

Time to Take Action on Climate Communication

Thomas E. Bowman,1 Edward Maibach,2 Michael E. Mann,3 Richard C. J. Somerville,4 Barry J. Seltser,5 Baruch Fischhoff,6 Stephen M. Gardiner,7 Robert J. Gould,8 Anthony Leiserowitz,9 Gary Yohe10

According to broad international agreement, a global warming increase beyond 2°C is unacceptable (1). Because of the physics of the climate system, we must ensure that global emissions of greenhouse gases peak and start to decline rapidly within a decade in order to have a reasonable chance of meeting the 2°C goal (2). Humankind has waffled and delayed for decades; further delay risks serious consequences for people and the ecosystems on which we rely.

Because the potential consequences of climate change are so high, the science community has an obligation to help people, organizations, and governments make informed decisions. Yet existing institutions are not well-suited to this task. Therefore, we call for the science community to develop, implement, and sustain an independent initiative with a singular mandate: to actively and effectively share information about climate change risks and potential solutions with the public, particularly decision-makers in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Moreover, we call on philanthropic funding institutions to endorse and provide sustained support for the initiative.

The initiative must make concerted efforts to provide people, organizations, and governments with critical information, to address misperceptions, and to counter misinformation and deception. In doing so, it will have to overcome psychological and cultural barriers to learning and engagement (3, 4, 5).

The initiative should be judged against two critical outcomes: (i) improved understanding of risks and potential solutions by people, organizations, and governments, and (ii) more informed decision-making—and less avoidance of decision-making—about how to manage those risks. The initiative should be an embodiment of what Fischhoff calls “non-persuasive communication.” It should not advocate specific policy decisions; good decision-making involves weighing the best available information with the values of the decision-makers and those affected by the decisions.

The initiative should recruit a full range of climate scientists, decision scientists, and communication professionals into the effort (6, 7) to ensure both sound scientific information and effective communication. In addition, it should build bridges to other communities of experts—such as clergy, financial managers, business managers, and insurers—who help people, organizations, and governments assess and express their values. Scientists and nonscientists alike inevitably interpret climate science information in the context of other information and values; the initiative should mobilize experts who can facilitate appropriate and useful interpretations.

Despite the politically contentious nature of climate change policy, the initiative must be strictly nonpartisan. In the face of efforts to undermine public confidence in science, it must become a trusted broker of unbiased information for people on all sides of the issue. At this potentially critical moment for human civilization, it is imperative that people, organizations, and governments be given the resources they need to participate in constructive civic, commercial, and personal decision-making about climate change risks and solutions.

1Climate Solutions Project, Bowman Global Change, Signal Hill, CA 90755, USA. 2Center for Climate Change Communication, Department of Communication, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA. 3Department of Meteorology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA. 4Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA. 5(Retired) U.S. Government Accountability Office, Washington, DC 20001, USA. 6Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA. 7Department of Philosophy and Program on Values in Society, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. 8Partnership for Prevention, Washington, DC 20036, USA. 9Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA. 10Department of Economics and College of the Environment, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT 06459, USA.

*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: tom@bowmanglobalchange.com

1.   Group of 8, “Responsible leadership for a sustainable future” (G8 Summit, L’Aquila, Italy, 2009).
2. M. Meinshausen et al., Nature 458, 1158 (2009).
3. National Research Council, Evaluating Progress of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program: Methods and Preliminary Results (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2007).
4. National Research Council. Informing Decisions in a Changing Climate (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2009).
5. National Research Council, Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2010).
6. B. Fischhoff, Env. Sci. Tech. Online 41, 7207 (2007).
7. T. Bowman, E. Maibach, M. E. Mann, S. C. Moser, R. C. J. Somerville, Science 324, 36 (2009).

More at ClimateEngage.org.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Announcements, Culture, Energy, Environment

What Girls Aren't Reading…

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | September 13, 2010 4:45 pm

Live from Boston’s Logan Airport, I wondered aloud (via Twitter):

Picture 6

(note: In the linked photo, the shelf above Men’s Journal, Fitness, and GQ held pornography)

To which my favorite mag CEO replied:

Picture 7So what needs to happen to even out the breakdown?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Education, Media and Science
MORE ABOUT: gender, magazines, men, science, women

Talk Tomorrow in Philly: "Science and Sustainability in the News"

By Chris Mooney | May 19, 2010 9:48 am

Tomorrow evening, I’ll be appearing at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences for this event:


“Who Will Tell the People? Science and Sustainability in the News”

Scientists who study the environment and global warming warn us at every turn that dramatic changes are afoot. Why don’t media headlines convey a sense of urgency? What is the best way to get the climate change message to citizens? What obligations do the media have? What prevents them from telling the story?

The May Urban Sustainability Forum will take a look at how the media covers issues of science, how shrinking budgets and disappearing science desks are impacting coverage, and how niche media sources are filling a void in sharing vital information.

Beth McConnell, Executive Director of the Media and Democracy Coalition, will be speaking on the topic of media consolidation and its effects on journalism, specifically sustainability.

Chris Mooney is a 2009-2010 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT and author of three books, including Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future (co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum). Mr. Mooney and Ms. Kirshenbaum also co-write The Intersection blog for Discovermagazine.com, a contributing editor to Science Progress, and a senior correspondent for The American Prospect magazine. He has been a visiting associate in the Center for Collaborative History at Princeton University, and is regularly featured on the national media, including The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, MSNBC’s Morning Joe, CSPAN’s Book TV, and NPR’s Fresh Air With Terry Gross and Science Friday.

Alex Mulcahy, President of Red Flag Media and Publisher of GRID magazine, will share his local success story in starting up a magazine focused on sustainability in the Philadelphia region, the obstacles and achievements and how the role GRID and other niche media sources play in educating the public.

Sandy Shea, the Editorial Page Editor for the Daily News, will be the moderator.

6 pm: Reception
6:30 – 8:30 pm: Program

You can register for the talk here. So I hope to see some Philly-based Intersection readers tomorrow night….blogging may be light this afternoon and on as I catch a plane.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Announcements, Media and Science

"Science Under Obama" on the BBC's "Night Waves"

By Chris Mooney | January 22, 2010 8:16 am

I recently appeared on this show, and I wasn’t the only one. Here’s the guest list:

Stewart Brand – author of the newly published Whole Earth Discipline
Dr Janet Rowley – human geneticist at the University of Chicago
Chris Mooney – author of The Republican War on Science and Unscientific America
Reverend Robert Sirico – founder of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty
Professor Jared Diamond – Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs and Steel: How Human Societies Fail
Oliver Morton – Energy and Environment Editor for The Economist
Dr Brent Blackwelder – President Emeritus of Friends of the Earth, United States

All in all, I have to say it made for a crowded, but very interesting, debate about science, politics, and society in the U.S., exactly one year after President Obama promised to restore science to its “rightful place,” & c & c.

I found that I agree with Stewart Brand about a lot. I also found that I agree with Robert Sirco about pretty much zero–and the same goes for Brent Blackwelder, at least based on what I heard on the show.

Oliver Morton’s comments on science and the American frontier were either deep or brilliant, I’m not sure which. But they gave me a little chill.

Based on his comments, I think Jared Diamond would like Unscientific America.

Oh, and Janet Rowley: Loved her comments on Leon Kass assigning an anti-science short story, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birth-Mark, at the first meeting of the President’s Council on Bioethics under Bush…an episode that should never be forgotten.

Listen to the whole program here.

The "F" Word

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | June 3, 2009 11:49 am

Since Chris and Jerry are back to religion, I’m reminded of my first foray into into the blogosphere in early 2007 when I discussed the topic. A subsequent storm of comments raged on for weeks over several posts. Initial argument persisted over terminology, but ultimately the conversation eroded into an inquisition over what I personally believe instead of a productive dialogue on science and religion. These days I don’t typically explore the relationship here because it mainly serves as sport and spectacle on the blogs.  Still, Chris’ post today inspired me to look back at the words I wrote during my first week at The Intersection–re-posted after the fold.  Upon reading again, I see that though my writing style has changed over the years, the point is just as relevant now…

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and Religion

Interested In Oceans?

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | May 26, 2009 2:56 pm

51kbh4ivbll_sl500_aa240_.jpgWhen in Long Beach earlier this month, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Wolf Berger; Professor of Oceanography Emeritus and Research Professor at
Scripps Institution of Oceanography.   Wolf has a terrific new book out called Ocean: Reflections on a Century of Exploration which covers, well… nearly everything!  From biodiversity and oceanography to marine geology and ocean history, if you’re interested in oceans, this book’s got it.  Berger covers corals reefs, climate change, plate tectonics, ocean currents, and so much more.  Here’s the description at Amazon:

The past one hundred years of ocean science have been distinguished by dramatic milestones, remarkable discoveries, and major revelations. This book is a clear and lively survey of many of these amazing findings. Beginning with a brief review of the elements that define what the ocean is and how it works–from plate tectonics to the thermocline and the life within it–Wolf H. Berger places current understanding in the context of history. Essays treat such topics as beach processes and coral reefs, the great ocean currents off the East and West Coasts, the productivity of the sea, and the geologic revolution that changed all knowledge of the earth in the twentieth century.

Ocean is a good companion for marine students or anyone interested in a detailed account of what’s going on beneath the surface.  And for our youngest readers who are budding marine scientists–or perhaps their parents–Wolf also has a very cute and informative children’s book called Feed Me! The Story of Penny the Penguin Chick.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books, Marine Science

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