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Yale Climate Connections: America's beacon of climate science awareness

Posted on 14 August 2017 by John Abraham

This is an unabashed endorsement of an important group. I have no affiliation with them or conflict of interest. They are great, period.

The ability to convey complex climate science to a wide-ranging audience is a golden attribute, something very few can achieve. This characteristic makes the Yale Climate Connections group unique.

The Yale Climate Connections effort comprises several interrelated efforts whose end result is captivating science education for the rest of us.

What is most exciting to me are their daily radio spots that focus on a current issue of climate change. The Yale group includes a team of editors, radio producers, and freelance reporters nationwide to record and post short (90-second) spots that are both interesting and informative. 

From someone who works in climate communication, I am surprised that a group can have this high of a throughput. It means your reporters have to be identifying relevant topics, finding experts to interview, learning enough to ask informed questions, and then perform audio edits. And this happens five days a week. The breadth and width of the topics can be seen at the group’s website. The radio spots are currently carried on almost 350 radio stations across North America and are hosted by Dr Anthony Leiserowitz, well known for his research on public opinions related to climate change, the “Six Americas.”

In addition to the short radio segments, the group produces original feature articles and a monthly series of videos that explore topics in much more detail than the short radio spots. These longer videos are produced by award-winning videographer Peter Sinclair.

In addition to its public outreach, the Yale group has worked behind the scenes to provide training workshops to help reporters, editors, and television weathercasters become more familiar with and comfortable discussing climate change with their audiences. I have worked with weathercasters quite a bit myself, and they are under a lot of pressure to provide well-watched weather forecasts and to avoid conflict that might turn off audiences. They are also confined to very short televised segments, so delving into complex climate topics is challenging. 

As part of this training, the Yale group and its partners involve many top scientists to update weathercasters on what is known about human influence on climate change. The experts also help the weathercasters develop stories that are true to the science but short and simple enough to be delivered within a normal broadcast. 

There are some other activities, but I think this summary is enough to appreciate what the Yale group is doing. With the proliferation of climate communication groups, one may wonder why the Yale team has been so successful. In my view, it is because of the quality of their team. I mentioned earlier that Dr. Leiserowitz is involved, and no one knows more about public engagement with climate change than he does.

Another key player is Bud Ward, who began working with the Yale team in 2007. Bud has decades of editorial and writing experience on environmental and energy issues.

But it isn’t just editors and videographers that make this a winning team; it is also their scientists. For example, Zeke Hausfather is a contributor.

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  1. Thanks for highlighting this excellent group. So far, I have been impressed with pretty much everything I have seen from them and about them.

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