|Linking global climate science experts and media electronically.
Several months ago, Stacy Jackson, a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group, had one of those good ideas that most of us set aside and never act on because they require a bit too much work.
But Jackson decided to follow through. What emerged was a unique, successful experiment in connecting reporters with scientists to help them accurately cover science issues underlying negotiations at last December’s Conference of the Parties meeting in Copenhagen.
Hundreds of scientists would ultimately get involved, helping nearly 27 media outlets get their facts straight.
If Scientists Don't Communicate ... Who Will?
Climate science can be about as complex as it gets, so it’s not surprising that the public at large is often confused about the subject.
Even with broad international scientific agreement on much of the evidence surrounding anthropogenic climate change, public concern has dropped sharply in the past two years – leading some to lament that public concern has decreased while scientific evidence has increased.
The effort to decarbonize the atmosphere in coming decades basically comes down to two grim challenges: drastically reduce carbon emissions, or drastically reduce energy consumption.
Given that the world’s population is expected to increase by a few billion more people by 2050, the energy consumption piece is a bit of a wild card. So experts and policymakers are getting serious about “clean coal,” a catch-all phrase dear to the hearts of industry public relations officials and a term meaning so many things, and different things, to different people. In addition, it’s a concept that exists only in a few places.
Confronting the Terawatts Challenge
The public has cooled in its concern over climate change, recent surveys and polls show. But a strong interest in alternative energy continues, and Americans are keen on improving energy efficiency and saving on gasoline.
As with other issues, the public’s understanding of details is thin. Half of those Americans surveyed could not identify a renewable resource such as wind or solar power, and 39 percent could not name a fossil fuel – oil or coal, for example.
The Public Agenda survey, conducted last year, (see this article for more details) makes studies such as those of Caltech researcher Nathaniel Lewis that much more important. The simple reason: he offers a stark reality check on the nation’s high rhetoric and crawling progress toward alternative energy.
A sampling of media coverage of Pennsylvania State University’s announcement of findings of an inquiry there illustrates how deadline reporting and headline-writing about a single straightforward news event can lead to differing shadings and colorings.
Penn State had named an internal university panel to look into climate scientist Michael Mann in connection with e-mail messages he had sent, part of the hacked e-mail cache from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, CRU.
During the past five years, Web video has emerged as a battleground in climate communication. Journalists, comedians, artists, businesses, governments, climate contrarians and advocacy groups alike are competing to produce the medium’s slickest, funniest and most compelling messages.
Take a look to see how some of those communicators are using Web video to influence public opinion. And if you have a favorite video that is not on the list (or on this list), let us know in the comments section below or by e-mail.
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — Growing tensions between scientists and major news outlets in Australia center around scientists’ concerns over coverage of the potential effects of climate change on coral reefs.
Many of the environmental scientists point to what they see as biased and misleading reporting, leaving them frustrated and wondering how they can best engage in a public debate that seems to have left them behind.