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Communicating Climate Science  

Effective communication of climate science, climate literacy and climate change is a huge topic that we all confront not only in our teaching, but also in day to day interactions with students, colleagues, peers and family.

I have two questions for you all:

1. Have you encountered particularly vexing communication barriers? If so, share them with us and perhaps the rest of the group can offer suggestions (or at the very least, sympathy).

2. Do you have particularly effective strategies for communicating climate topics? Are there certain resources, techniques or approaches that have worked well for you? If so, please let us know what has worked for you.

To wrap up our workshop, John Cook will share insights about communicating climate change that he has gleaned through his Skeptical Science website (


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This post was editted by Alana Danieu on Apr, 2017
For your consideration -

A couple of sites I've found this afternoon you might want to look at:
do we want to add the "know facts" and "did you know facts"

Aquarius Classroom Activities

science: Ocean Circulation & Climate
This has a good visual that shows how salinity affects various latitudes


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This post was editted by Stephen Taylor on Jun, 2011
I have a three point plan for communicating climate change to a person who questions "global warming".

1. There is a greenhouse effect - undisputed physical observation, known for over a century, measurable on Earth, moon, Mars, Venus, etc. (you can note that Venus is much hotter than Mercury even thought the latter is closer to the sun. Why? Venus' thick CO2 atmosphere = strong GHE; also note the average temperature of the moon is below freezing yet Earth's is much higher).

2. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Known for over a century. measurable, undisputed physical observation.

3. Atmospheric CO2 is increasing due to human activities. Also an undisputed physical observation, which also follows naturally from combustion.

Ergo...what do you think will happen? It's not rocket science. Hopefully, then, you can move on to the following questions: "How warm will it get?" "What are the consequences?"


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This post was editted by Stephen Taylor on Jun, 2011
When someone suggests climate scientists just want their money. Ask how climate scientists can get rich off of global warming. I don't see how. This is an opportunity to get them thinking about how one becomes a scientist, what they do, how they are funded, and restrictions on funding uses.
It takes about 10 years of university study (BS + PhD) while majoring in a challenging science. Candidates usually finish with strong math, computer, and statistics skills, which could earn them substantially more in the private sector. Research dollars are awarded through a laborious competitive-bid process with independent, anonymous review. Competition is fierce and success rates low (most proposals are shot down).
When funds are awarded, they can only be used carry out specific tasks, not to line the pockets of the awardee. The scientist's expenditures must be approved by the host institution and are reviewed by the award agency. NSF, NOAA, etc. have clear, publicly available policies on awards that anyone can verify.
No one would ever become a climate scientist to get rich, nor could they do so. Contrast with the literally trillions of $ of fossil fuels still in the ground. The fossil fuel industry clearly has a massive financial incentive.


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Those are good strategies Steve, thanks for sharing them.

I have found that in the context of an entire geology course, students are already familiar enough with earth science and the scientific process that I don't get much kickback on students accepting anthropogenic climate change. Of course there are differences in opinions on solutions and policy, but that's a good thing.

Out in the regular world, I admit I have started to sidestep debates over the topic. Now that I have learned the difference between a skeptic and someone who has no interest in genuine skepticism, I steer clear of conversations that are destined to turn into arguments.

That said, oddly enough there is one place where I do engage in public discussion on climate change. I participate in an online forum about cycling (that's bicycles, not biogeochemical cycles!). The topic of climate change comes up regularly and I take those opportunities to post some data, make a graph or two, and clear up misconceptions. This enrages a few people (who I ignore) but provides some level-headed science for the majority of the people who read the forums.


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