Scientists' Climate Change Messaging Anything But Clear

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Grist Magazine has turned up another excellent climate change piece – this time an excerpt from “Americans and Climate Change: Closing the Gap Between Science and Action” (PDF) a report synthesizing the insights of 110 leading thinkers on how to educate and motivate the American public on the subject of global warming.

The report strays into the an arena more typically occupied by public relations professionals, talking about the weight, meaning and persuasive power of language and the weighty, confusing and dismaying language that scientists most often employ. For example, the article points out:

“The (climate change) issue has been loaded up with an impenetrable construct of jargon – ranging from the scientists’ ‘positive feedback loops’ or ‘positive radiative forcing’ (‘positive’ in these cases actually refers to something bad) to the policy-makers’ tradable emissions permits denominated in ‘tons’ of carbon dioxide-equivalent (to the average American, ‘tons’ presumably connote elephants more than invisible air molecules). Scientists say ‘anthropogenic’ when ‘man- made’ would be more widely understood.”

Typically, the whole piece is a little dense (which is to say “heavy going,” not “thick”), but well worth the read.

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