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RMetS Communicating Climate Science - cartoon notes by Josh

Yesterday's joint meeting of the Royal Meteorological Society and Royal Geographical Society on Communicating Climate Science was held at Imperial College, London.

The meeting focused on the report 'Climate Science, the Public and the News Media' by Emily Shuckburgh , Rosie Robison and Nick Pidgeon.

Many of the nuggets in the report were discussed, and are in my cartoon notes, but one is worth repeating: trust in scientists (communicating about climate change) has fallen from 68% in 2006 to 51% in 2011. Trust in climate scientists is even lower at 38%. This is extraordinary, though perhaps not much of a surprise.

Sadly much of the meeting did not really deal with this at all. Most of the talks were about how to communicate better rather than dealing with the thorny but rather basic problem that the message was not credible. Bob Ward was the only person to raise this and to ask how trust might be regained - much respect to Bob for asking the right question and commiserations for not getting an answer.

There was also a noticeable disconnect between the science and 'the message'. Tim Palmer's talk was excellent but his points about uncertainty (that's the science) did not sit easily with later speakers who wanted to hear something much more alarming. They wanted risk not uncertainty, at least 6 degrees of heat, massive impacts and much more passion, not because it was science but because they wanted to change people's behaviour. More like 6 degrees of separation.

Two other issues came to mind. The first is that none of the speakers seemed to think anything was amiss with climate science. Climategate was mentioned a little but there was no calling out of bad behaviour, no apology for getting some of the science disastrously wrong, in other words they are still 'Hiding the Decline'.

The second issue, as Andy Russell has pointed out, was that there was no mention of the blogs. Again maybe this should not be a surprise given the desparation of some to control the message.

My last thought is the gobsmacking irony of the closing remarks where some of the panel did not think it was worth communicating to the public. Incredible? Indeed it was.

The Cartoon Notes

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Emily Shuckburgh: Welcome and introduction to the report "Climate Science, the Public and the News Media"

Tim Palmer: A scientist's perspective on communicating climate change.
Rosie Robison: Climate science, the public and the news media.


Rosie Robison continued
Alice Bell: Science communication in the UK.


Alice Bell continued
Alice Bows: Emissions trajectories and future challenges.

Adam Corner: Public perceptions of climate change.
Adam Corner continued
Chris Rose: Communicating with the public.
Chris Rose continued
Panel discussion
Panel discussion continued






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Reader Comments (9)

Alice Bell did a good job in dissing the deficit model, and the Stern foreword to the report. But overall huge disconnect between the unanimous expectation of several degrees of warming over next 100 years and rational policy response. Alice (?) Bows address on 4 - 6 degrees showed very clearly what the developed world and developing world have to do in decarbonising - no humility (Palmer and Simon Buckle excepted) from the climate bods there about whether they were out of their area when discussing policy - ie they have near zero useful to communicate on eg the nuclear debate.

Nov 8, 2012 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoddy Campbell

Great work Josh brightened up what was turning out to be a bad day !

Nov 8, 2012 at 1:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterMat

Praise from Josh for Bob Ward should damage his street cred with the True Believers no end.....

Nov 8, 2012 at 1:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

"Trust in climate scientists is even lower at 38%"

Possibly politicians have latched onto science in the past because they hope that the public's trust in science will transfer to them. Let's hope that this is one statistic at least that will be noticed in Westminster.

Nov 8, 2012 at 2:01 PM | Registered CommenterPhilip Richens

My reactions, after a skim read of the Report being discussed and your report and the excellent cartoons, are these:
1 The propaganda campaign mounted before, during and after the passing of the Climate Change Act has only been partially successful and its influence is slowly waning.
2 The influence of the BBC is significant in framing public perceptions; it puts into context the BBC`s expensive efforts to deny Tony Newbery the names of those attending their December 2006 meeting, discussed here: If disclosure of names reveals that the BBC was/is indeed complicit in pushing government propaganda, it would be a severe (if not fatal) blow to its reputation for neutrality.
3 The fact of scientific uncertainty does not sit at all easily with the earlier recommendation in Warm Words (August 2006) I referred to earlier in "" These were:
"Much of the noise in the climate change discourse comes from argument and counter-argument, and it is our recommendation that, at least for popular communications, interested agencies now need to treat the argument as having been won. This means simply behaving as if climate change exists and is real, and that individual actions are effective. This must be done by stepping away from the ‘advocates debate’ described earlier, rather than by stating and re-stating these things as fact.
The ‘facts’ need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken. The certainty of the Government’s new climate-change slogan – ‘Together this generation will tackle climate change’ (Defra 2006) – gives an example of this approach. It constructs, rather than claims, its own factuality."

This is indeed a tangled web.

Nov 8, 2012 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

Something seems not quite right in the Royal Met Soc, of which I used to be a member many years ago.

Tallbloke has exposed in a series of 3 posts (third one here: a somewhat unimpressive document apparently aimed at schoolteachers and which is to be found on the RMS education site ( I'm hoping it was planted there by a hacker or an 'activist' insider as I would prefer to see the RMS present a calmer, more defensible view.

Nov 8, 2012 at 5:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

It never seems to dawn on 'climate scientists' that they wouldn't have anything to 'communicate' to the public or 'messages' in need of adoption if they hadn't issued a succession of ridiculous assertions about the future state of a system they have little or no hope of ever describing accurately.

They should have quietly developed some successful ability to forecast the future parameters of average weather before proclaiming to the general public that they had a capability they patently don't.

Nov 8, 2012 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

So it isn't just the BNP jumping on the Eco Bandwagon

Interesting its still considered bad manners for us Deniers to call them Eco Fascists.

Nov 9, 2012 at 8:55 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

great work alice bell i like the communication in uk.........

Mar 31, 2013 at 10:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterArti Singh

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