Communicating climate change at the Maths of Planet Earth conference

2013 is the international year of Mathematics of Planet Earth. The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute is running a conference to explore and extol the role of maths and stats in understanding the challenges of our world in a fun and accessible way. That's right, maths is fun, you heard it here! The conference will be held in Melbourne, July 8 to 12, as academics and scientists converge for a week of lectures, sessions and networking.

I was honoured to be invited to speak at the event, where I'll be talking about The challenges of communicating the reality of climate change. Here's an abstract of my talk:

Communicating the reality of climate change is a deceptively difficult proposition. The average layperson thinks of climate as the weather they experience in their daily lives. Public surveys find people more accepting of global warming on hotter days but more sceptical on cold days. However, climate change is understood through the analysis of long-term trends and regional weather patterns. Climate is in essence weather averaged over time and space. Consequently, simple questions require complex, nuanced answers. Did global warming cause a specific flood? Individual extreme weather events are difficult to blame on climate change but the probability of such events increase with global warming. Converting abstract statistics into concrete concepts that laypeople can understand and relate to is crucial to communicating the realities of climate change.

They've just posted an interview with me on their website where we discuss what I'll be talking about at the conference. The interview was conducted by Stéphanie Pradier (who incidentally is currently in her 4th year of a physics degree, something we have in common). We also delve into a number of other interesting topics such as the biasing influence of political ideology, the essential ingredient of an effective debunking and the humble beginnings of Skeptical Science. Here's the video:

For more details about the conference, check out the Mathematics of Planet Earth website.

Posted by John Cook on Monday, 3 June, 2013

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