Climate communications: Laura Helmuth and Susan Hassol talk about language

Do people hear what we're saying about climate change and why it's important? Making sure we're understood needs displacement— into other sets of ears. 

The right words are crucial to solving climate change – but too often the way that scientists share information can be confusing for the general public. How can researchers and other science communicators more clearly get across their findings and potential solutions, to help us together make progress on such important global challenges? Join Laura Helmuth, Editor-in-Chief at Scientific American, in conversation with Susan Hassol Director, Climate Communication.

This interview from Springer Nature's In Conversation pairs with Hassol's recent article The Right Words Are Crucial to Solving Climate Change, published in Scientific American

Helmuth and Hassol explore choosing terminology for better mutual understanding. The same linguistic barriers Helmuth and Hassol tackle lead Skeptical Science to undertake a massive revision project aimed at leveling the hill between climate talk and climate listen— by using plain language.  Here are three examples of how language goes amiss, and how to land on target: 

Scientist  says Public hears Clarity added
Climate change Any change of climate Climate disruption
Positive feedback Good response Self-reinforcing cycle
Greenhouse gas emissions Hothouse exhaust Heat-trapping pollution

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Posted by Doug Bostrom on Monday, 8 May, 2023

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