Richard Alley, Susi Moser Featured in Yale Forum Communications Webinar

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The second in the ongoing new ’30onClimate’ webinar series covers a wide range of issues from the differing, but complementary, perspectives of two leading voices on science communications.

A new 30-minute webinar on climate change communications covers a wide area of topical issues, as earth scientist Richard Alley of Penn State University and social scientist Susi Moser take on questions posed by Yale Forum regular contributor Bruce Lieberman and several sent in by individuals across the country.

Coming from their distinctly different career paths and areas of specialty, Alley and Moser offered insightful analyses on issues ranging from:

  • how the public understands or misunderstands weather vs. climate distinctions in situations involving unusual events such as the “polar vortex” or the instance of the Russian research vessel recently locked-in by ice while conducting climate research in Antarctica;
  • how a wide range of what Moser called “intervening variables” can color individual’s reactions to a particular set of scientific facts, with people drawing differing conclusions from the same basic points;
  • ways scientists can best frame a discussion so that it opens an audience to hearing about the evidence-based science. “The physics is the same for me as for anyone else,” Alley emphasized at one point, saying he personally stays away from recommending policy or personal actions that should be taken in light of that evidence;
  • the plusses and minuses associated with popular Hollywood treatments of climate change, in part stemming from those productions having to first be entertaining and only after that be “accurate”;
  • the implications of inevitable uncertainty in addressing climate change, uncertainties which Alley said “are mostly on the bad side … grossly on the bad side”;
  • the challenges inherent in communicating with that large segment of society — clearly a majority — not characterized as solidly “anxious” or “dismissive” about climate change and its impacts … but generally less resolutely firm about their feelings and, in any case, far less vocal than those at the “extreme” ends of public concern; and
  • challenges involved in addressing equity and ethical considerations raised by climate change, and scientists’ ethical responsibilities in sharing their research findings with a lay audience. “We really do have to tell the people what we know” based on scientists’ research, Alley said, much of which he acknowledged is publicly funded.

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2 Responses to Richard Alley, Susi Moser Featured in Yale Forum Communications Webinar

  1. Jeff Severinghaus says:

    That’s terrific. I especially liked Susi’s point that we can’t assume that the same set of
    facts will produce the same actions in all brains. Richard was amazingly eloquent (as usual) and
    I really liked the point about “use the scholarship and it will make us better off”. We (as climate
    communicators) haven’t done a good job of communicating that. I do agree heartily with Richard
    that our generation can indeed see the way forward to a sustainable future, and the message
    can be a very positive one in its emotional tone (we know how to do solar and wind now). All
    that remains to be done is to harness the free market to get the job done, by leveling the playing
    field as Susi said. A carbon fee-and-dividend (revenue neutral to satisfy those who distrust
    government) is one way to get there. I agree with Richard, in that I try very hard not to tell people
    what to do, but the emotional story is incomplete if we don’t mention the options that are on the
    table. So I usually do mention carbon fee and dividend, and/or elimination of subsidies for fossil.
    When people ask for personal actions that can be taken, I mention the options of buying an electric
    car and installing LEDs in your house in place of incandescents and fluorescents.

    Brilliant, all of you!!


  2. Marlin R. Turby says:

    This is an engaging conversation the three of you had. As a concerned citizen interested in climate communication these types of presentations are very useful…so my thanks to all of you.

    I would like to acknowledge Richard Alley for writing and presenting, Energy, the Environment and Our Future an on-line course offered at no cost, through Penn State University. I am enrolled in that course and it’s truly a gift and privilege to have this available. In it we discover the science behind climate change and from there we get very clear that we need to act upon this. What’s so inviting is that future scenarios are spelled out which are based upon a variety of choices that we as a society may choose in the coming decades and century ahead. Once all of the evidence and facts are laid out on how those scenarios will play out, including the uncertainties within them, it becomes an obvious choice. Most people hopefully will choose the smart way out of this and begin paving a sustainable future. It is a simple call for general decency and respect for one another.