How to talk about climate change

Event to address communication challenges — and opportunities for MIT to help overcome them.

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On Tuesday, March 31, MIT students, faculty, staff, and administrators will gather for an interactive panel discussion about challenges in communication around climate change.

The event, titled “Getting Through on Global Warming: How to Rewire Climate Change Communication,” will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in Room E51-115, and will be webcast live. It is the third of four open-forum spring events that are part of the MIT Climate Change Conversation, and the first to focus specifically on communication.

“It has become clear that a major bottleneck in the current inability to make progress in attacking climate change has to do with communication,” says Roman Stocker, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and chair of the Committee on the MIT Climate Change Conversation. “The input we obtained from the MIT community identified this topic as a priority and highlighted the need for better communication at multiple levels.”

Tuesday’s conversation will center on perceptions about climate change, how the subject is discussed, and how changes to the way it’s discussed could inspire action.

“There’s a consensus that this is a serious issue, that the climate change threat is significant, but there’s a lot of inattention, or apathy, or division around this topic in general,” says Anne Slinn, the executive director for research at the MIT Center for Global Change Science and a member of the Committee on the MIT Climate Change Conversation. “Really what we’re looking at is: What can MIT as an institution do? How can we advance the level of discussion around this topic, locally and nationwide?”

The event will feature a panel discussion followed by a discussion with the audience, wherein participants can ask questions of panelists and give input via email or text message.

Panelists at the Tuesday event will include MIT professors Kerry Emmanuel (Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences), Judy Layzer (Department of Urban Studies and Planning), Tom Levenson (Comparative Media Studies / Writing), and Drazen Prelec (MIT Sloan School of Management). Joining the conversation from outside the Institute are Chris Mooney, a journalist for who writes about global warming for the Washington Post, and Susan Hassol, director of the organization Climate Communication, which works with scientists and journalists to make climate science more accessible to the public. The discussion will be moderated by John Durant, director of the MIT Museum.

The committee encourages community members to submit questions and topics of discussion prior to the event by emailing Participants can also send questions and comments via email and text message during the event.

From Tuesday’s event, the committee hopes that attendees leave with “an awareness, but also hope, in the sense that there is a way around the issue: If we recognize the problem, we can come up with solutions,” Slinn says. “Some [solutions] might be as easy as saying things in different ways — if we focus on things we have in common, as opposed to what pushes us apart.”

Topics: Sustainability, Environment, Administration, Special events and guest speakers, Campus buildings and architecture, Climate change, Community


Without Prof Richard Lindzen on the panel, this will be nothing but climate alarmist propaganda promoting the man-made global warming Narrative.

The "arena" of discussion surrounding climate change needs to shift. Our current discussion revolves around the diagnosis -- is it real?, is it serious? -- and neglects the treatment.

Suppose you have a diagnosis of cancer --and it's a serious cancer. But suppose you learn that there's a new cure for your particular cancer. And suppose further that the cost of the cure is cheap, and it'll improve your overall health regardless of whether or not the diagnosis was right. Then why in the world would you spend your time fighting over the diagnosis? You'd just get treated and move on.

Climate change is a serious diagnosis. Perhaps it's mistaken. But the cure for climate change -- the investment in new technologies and infrastructure, the shift toward clean and renewable technologies -- is very likely to have a huge positive (not negative) impact on the world economy. Regardless of climate change, these technologies will more than pay for themselves. Employment will go up. Demand will go up. The environment will be cleaner. People's health will improve. National security will improve. Even if the diagnosis is completely wrong, the treatment is beneficial and not harmful. (For example, current advances in solar efficiency and recent progress in battery technology have the potential to transform the world in very positive ways regardless of the reality of climate change. We should "get behind" those changes.)

The whole debate is wrong-headed. There are unstated and apparently unchallengeable assumptions that the treatments (for climate change) will be painful, unlikely to work, and that we can't afford them. So we argue about the diagnosis instead. It's nuts. The right thing is to do those things that will benefit us all regardless.

Logic and credibility are not getting through to the ones that disagree with the established scientific findings. Emotion appears to be the main argument that is invoked. For this reason, we need agreeable terms/slogans/rallying cries. ex."efficiency saves energy and money"

Maybe we could rename the event to: "How to convince all the deniers/rubes out there that the sky is falling without saying 'the sky is falling' ". This may help sway the opinions of all the unenlightened non-believers out there that we are only here to help them.

It's simple, religion needs to get out of the way.

religious people, who are categorically not fans of science, should not have a say in how science is applied to our world problems. Do scientists walk into the vatican and stir things up? No, they don't.

If religious folk want to join the 21st century, they need to understand Science, otherwise just get out of the way...

Questions: Is the "Anthropogenic Agenda" a theory or an hypothesis? Is the "Science Settled"? Should "Skeptics" be publically ridiculed and punished?

A convention of chicken littles?

The only thing certain about science's climate change consensus is 34 MORE years of climate action failure, wrong predictions, 97% certainty and total global denial. If it were a CRISIS science would say it was no matter what. What's worse? A comet hit? Are comet hits 97% real as well?
So what can science do now to stop unstoppable warming and stop the unstoppable denial of it?
*Occupywallstreet now does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by trust worth politicians.

The problem is not comunications. Seeing that this coming from MIT I would think they would see the problem, which is proof that it is caused by the acts of mankind. They can not provide a model that shows this is happening let alone show it is because of humans. The AGWers are wanting alot of money and laws passed and most people need a good reason to give hard earned money and freedoms.

Can we talk about overpopulation? Or is that a sensitive topic?

Stop telling kids science isn't allowed to be more than 97% certain because the only thing certain now about climate change is 34 MORE years of climate action failure and global denial.
Now bring on those climate change war crime trials.
Get up to date;
*Occupywallstreet now does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by trust worth politicians.

Checkout James Hansen's 'Golden Opportunity' and compare it with Charles Krauthammer's "Tax gas - a lot". This is the best way to put a Price on Carbon (pollution). It would transform the world's fossil fuel addiction and create millions of jobs leading to the well-being of people and the Planet.

One problem, which I think Dan Kahan has discussed in the general context of the dynamics of political disagreements, is that a large part of the AGW rhetoric amounts to "people who disagree with us are stupid and ignorant." Telling people that they are stupid and ignorant is unlikely to persuade them, or even make them more willing to listen to your arguments.

A second problem is that a lot of the rhetoric is dishonest. The 97% figure is routinely represented, by among others President Obama, as if it measured the percentage of scientists who believe AGW is a terrible problem. If you actually read Cook et. al. 2013, which is the chief source for the number, and ignore any criticisms of the details, you discover that 97% is the percentage of those papers whose abstract took some position on the causes of warming that held that humans were one cause. The percentage that held that humans were the main cause was 1.6% and the paper reported nothing at all about what was implied about consequences. For details see:


The rhetoric routinely blurs the distinction between the claim that warming is happening and is probably due mostly to human action and the claim that the consequences can be expected to be very bad. The evidence for the latter claim is much weaker than for the former, but that fact is obscured in much of the discussion.

The last 34 YEARS of science's "97%" certainty of a GLOBAL CO2 CLIMATE CRISIS, makes another 34 years of climate action failure and global denial a 100% certainty. Deny that.

Now bring on the climate change war crime trials.

How can you improve communications??

Well you could start by settling on a single term to describe
what you are selling. What started as “Global
Warming” morphed into “Climate Change”
and now “Climate Disruption”. ……and
now you are looking for some new terminology? All these terms sound like different thing
to most normal people. Stop moving the Goal Posts, if you want some credibility.

Then, find a much more credible spokesman than Al Gore. Remind me again which Science Degree he
has. By his own admission, he did
poorly in Science and avoided Math courses.
……. and no, “Political Science” is not actually a Science.

Stop trying to “Prove things” by telling people things like ”all
the cute little Polar Bears will drown because there will be no more ice at the
North Pole”, only to wind up looking
foolish when someone points out that Polar bears can swim very well over long
distances. ….. oh wait,
now it’s Tigers and Lions that are dying because of GW. (see moving the goal posts above)

Also stop saying things like “a consensus of Scientists agree”. Science depends on Proof, not consensus. Every third grade student knows that “a
consensus of scientists once agreed that the world was flat”.

Now I can maybe buy the statement that it is possible today
to develop a single number that represents a valid “Global Average Temperature” that is accurate
to 3 decimal places, But exactly how
did they do that at a time when Darwin was considered a fraud by “a consensus
of Scientists”?. Never mind 8,000
years ago.

And finally, let’s
see some papers published that actually contradict the expected result the
Grant money expected.

Stop shooting yourselves in the foot.

I have six comments in moderation. I guess we cannot talk about climate change or even comment on how to talk about climate.

A scientific consensus appears to be the major argument supporting the claim that Earth is warming and very likely due to human activities. AFAICT, there is no experimental data that confirms the radiative forcing potential of infra-red absorbing gases--particularly CO2, the main anthropogenic suspect--in directly causing an increase in global temperatures. The plethora of circumstantial evidence, hypothetical arguments, and modelling results tend to drown out the hard evidence. Is this emphasis on better communication just proving what we already know, that talk is cheap?

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