“Science is so, so visual!” – Neil McCoy
Communicating on climate
In my ECCF post in May, I discussed my concern about the politicization of scientists and the perception of that amongst conservatives and the general public. Recent papers add to my concern that the perception of scientists has become politicized, and will continue to be so, particularly when viewed through the lense of news media and social media. The concern over politicization brought the following question to mind.
World renowned climate scientist, Michael E. Mann, recently co-authored a Washington Post article titled, ‘Harvey and Irma should kill any doubt that climate change is real.’ This is a sentiment likely shared amongst those most familiar with the influence of rising sea and air temperatures on extreme weather, or those who are generally just concerned about climate change.
In recent years, numerous climate projections (such as MACA or LOCA) have been made available for use in impact assessments and adaptation planning. However, the breadth of available projections presents a daunting challenge to managers and scientists who are trying to determine which projections are appropriate for a particular decision context.
We’ve all heard the phrase that science should be explained on the level of sixth- to eighth-graders to be understandable for a general audience, right? But who has ever tried to explain science to actual sixth- to eighth-graders? I can now proudly say I have, and I’ve lived to tell the story.
Looking back over the last ~10 years, it’s been a joy to be a scientist. I get to explore questions of interest to me and help climate science be useable. Scientific communities are critical to society, so it’s important that they be trusted. It’s an interesting time to be involved in the study of climate, particularly from my perspective. I happen to be something most might think a contradiction. I am a climatologist, but I am also politically conservative. I have some remarks from my (sometimes awkward) perspective.
“Science” is a word that means many things to many people. If you were to ask a practicing scientist how they define science, you might receive one of myriad responses. How each of us conceptualizes science may be unique, but most scientists recognize a shared set of methods and a core of objectives, analytical, and empirical values that unify our diverse fields.
Many of us have taken up the noble cause of communicating our science to nonscientists. Casting ourselves as the heroes, it’s important to remember, however, that even the best of intentions sometimes have a way of resulting in unintended consequences. In the original Star Trek, a young Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise rescues a ship full of super-humans in suspended animation with their life-support on the verge of failure. In return for his good deed, Khan Noonien Signh and the other superhumans whose lives he saved turned out to be one of the Enterprise’s most dangerous adversaries.
I was a bit taken aback on our third day of training at the 6th annual Northwest Climate Boot Camp (NW CBC), which was held at the University of Idaho’s (UI) McCall Outdoor Science School (MOSS) in McCall, Idaho. During our interactive lesson on producing podcasts using Audacity, we were asked to head into McCall and interview members of the community about what water means to them and, if possible, their