Published on July 4th, 2013 | by Stephanie
MEDIA RELEASE: Responding to misinformation
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Responding to misinformation
The challenges of communicating the reality of climate change
Sometimes in science the equations may be close to perfect but, as John Cook knows better than anyone else, they don’t quite add up in the mind of the general public.
Cook is a Climate Communication Fellow for the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland. He is perhaps more known for his website SkepticalScience.com. This website has earned high praise around the world for explaining the science of climate change in an easily accessible manner and for maintaining a database of detailed rebuttals for the hundreds of persistent climate sceptic myths.
Yet, as his research has shown, this is not enough to sway the minds of a public struggling to understand the strength of the science behind climate change.
This year, Cook and his colleagues released a paper that examined 11, 944 abstracts from peer-reviewed climate journals and found that 97.1% of the abstracts expressing a position on human-caused global warming endorsed the position that humans are causing global warming.
This is as close to certain as science gets.
Incredibly the general population remains uncertain about the existence of climate change, with many surveys showing 40-50% of people in some countries, Australia included, doubt the science.
And with many things in life, it is the small things that make a big difference.
“People’s views on climate change are stronger on hotter days than on cold,” John Cook said.
“However, it is our political ideologies that most strongly influence our belief systems.”
Worryingly, the urgency to act on climate change grows whether or not the public is decided.
In a report released by the University of Tokyo, Japan, researchers examined the expected flood frequency in 29 major international river basins, including Australia’s Murray-Darling. The report, Global flood risk under climate change, predicts 100-year-flood events of the 20th century will transform into 10-50-year events in the 21st century.
Converting abstract statistics into concrete concepts, which lay people can understand and relate to, has become crucial to communicating the realities of climate change and other sciences.
John Cook presents The challenges of communicating the reality of climate change, at Maths of Planet Earth, Australia: The conference, Monday 8th July 2013.
Cook has written several books about climate change, scientific denial and co-authored a short guide to debunking myths. He runs the website SkepticalScience.com.
M: 0424 568 314