John Cook: The challenges of communicating the reality of climate change


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Communicating the reality of climate change is a deceptively difficult proposition. The average layperson thinks of climate as the weather they experience in their daily lives. Public surveys find people more accepting of global warming on hotter days but more sceptical on cold days. However, climate change is understood through the analysis of long-term trends and regional weather patterns. Climate is in essence weather averaged over time and space. Consequently, simple questions require complex, nuanced answers. Did global warming cause a specific flood? Individual extreme weather events are difficult to blame on climate change but the probability of such events increase with global warming. Converting abstract statistics into concrete concepts that laypeople can understand and relate to is crucial to communicating the realities of climate change.

John Cook, Global Change Institute, University of Queensland.[subscribe2]

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