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Climate Hustle

Climate Communication: Making Science Heard and Understood

Posted on 13 September 2011 by Susan Joy Hassol

Guest post by Susan Hassol, Director of Climate Communication

John Cook asked me to write a guest post introducing you to Climate Communication, a new science and outreach organization dedicated to improving public understanding of climate change science. Before I do that, I want to say how much I appreciate Skeptical Science’s encyclopedic refutation of every common skeptic claim. It’s a great service to the community and it’s the site I always send people to when they ask how to respond to the typical contrarian talking points. Climate Communication also hopes to contribute something important to the public discussion of climate change.

This is a critical time. The science has never been more clear and compelling. Yet the public has never been so confused and misled. There is much to tell, and there are many scientists who are talented at and committed to telling it. People need to know the facts, and there are labs and universities ready to offer them. People also need to hear the stories of climate change, from scientists and other messengers whom they trust. The need is urgent, as the time for effective action is short. In this context, Climate Communication was born.

I’d spent a couple of decades working with climate scientists to communicate their work to the wider public. I had helped to put a lot of great reports on the shelf (see for example: Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, Impacts of A Warming Arctic, etc.). But if a tree falls in the forest and not enough people hear, then what?

So we’re here to do everything we can to bring the science forward in a way that it can be heard. We're still doing much of what I’ve been doing for a long time: helping scientists produce accessible reports and other science-based materials. But we're also doing a lot more. 

For scientists, we’re offering workshops in communicating climate science that go far beyond typical media training. We focus on the specific challenges of communicating about climate change. We go beyond problems of language to consider psychological and cultural issues. Our Science Director, Richard Somerville, and I led a climate communication workshop at the American Geophysical Union meeting in December 2010 and we’ll both be speaking there again this year. We led a workshop at NASA Jet Propulsion Lab on communicating about climate change. And we have more workshops planned. We welcome inquires about holding additional workshops and professional development sessions.

For journalists, we’re making the latest science available in a more accessible form and helping them identify the best experts to interview on particular topics. In a fast-paced and challenging media environment, we’re bringing the science to journalists in ways that are credible and helpful. Last week we held a telephone press conference featuring leading climate scientists discussing the linkages between extreme weather and climate change. We also posted a summary of the latest peer-reviewed science on that subject. Journalists are welcome to contact us and we’ll do our best to help. 

For the public, we’re producing clear, brief summaries of the most important things they need to know about climate change, using not only words but also videos and animations. We’re providing concise answers to the key questions people ask: What’s happening to climate and why? How will it affect us? And what can we do about it? 

The Yale and George Mason Universities’ studies tell us the questions most Americans want answered. Our science advisors answer those questions and more, simply and clearly, at our website in both text and videos.

Our Science Advisors include many of the world’s leading climate scientists, who are also great communicators: Ken Caldeira, Julia Cole, Robert Corell, Kerry Emanuel, Katharine Hayhoe, Greg Holland, Jeff Kiehl, Michael MacCracken, Michael Mann, Jeff Masters, Jerry Meehl, Jonathan Overpeck, Camille Parmesan, Barrett Rock, Benjamin Santer, Kevin Trenberth, Warren Washington, and Don Wuebbles.

You can read their bios, learn what they do outside of science, and even see them in action on our website, in brief bio videos. We also put together a short video on what the public really needs to know about climate change. And there are many more videos on common climate questions, extreme weather and climate change, and other topics. We hope to help amplify their voices and bring more clarity to public discussions of this great challenge.

So explore our site, spread the word, and please let us know how we’re doing and what we can do to help you.

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Comments

Comments 1 to 38:

  1. Great work!

    The question I always ask myself when thinking about science communication is this: "Who are your target audience?"

    I guess in your case there isn't a single answer. The audience is highly segmented, and different segments presumably require very different communication strategies.

    Do you have a model of your target audiences, with strategies to communicate to them?

    Do you have suggestions on how lay people can help out?


    FWIW what I'm doing at the moment is as follows:

    - I engage primarily in incidental discussion on forums primarily devoted to other topics, such as religion or board games. News forums are too hot for me. Maybe they are too hot for effective communication in general.
    - I try and respond to attacks on the science as if they were genuine interested queries - naively overlooking attacks and just picking one or two technical points to talk about.
    - I try to think of my audience not as the person I am responding to, but as the lurker reading the thread. Having the last word or winning points are irrelevent. Being perceived as the more reasoned and better informed party is much more effective.

    So far, that seems to be working better for me. No doubt different strategies work for other people. In particular, humour is a powerful tool and allows you to be far more direct, but it's not my forte.
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  2. Susan, one program a group like yours could/should set up, is workshops (online?) (preferably, accompanied by some dedicated funding) for people from small nonprofits whose missions are threatened by climate change, to equip these communicators with the most important & misunderstood concepts & points so they can (& will be motivated to) communicate the basic information needed by their communities.
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  3. Poynter.News University offers a free, 4-hour, online, self-directed course, “Covering Climate Change.”

    To access it, click here.
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  4. My Environmental Science classes are studying Climate Change. Once again they are going to present a survey that will be sent to all students and faculty in our school and perhaps the district. I posted a link to our survey from last year and was roundly criticized for it's design because the results contradicted some of the ideals held by visitors of this site.

    This year if any of you would like to design the survey, I will gladly post it. It needs to be 10 questions long and neutrally worded. It will be posted on www.survymonkey.com

    If you are interested please contact me at mikemacdonald64@yahoo.com

    Thanks,
    Mike
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  5. Great site - thanks for publicising here.

    Another wonderful link that I think says it all in one page can be found here

    NASA key climate indicators

    I certainly find it useful
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  6. apirate@4
    "I posted a link to our survey from last year and was roundly criticized for it's design because the results contradicted some of the ideals held by visitors of this site."

    Have you completely given up on even pretending to be objective? Your comments of late have been almost entirely combative and you assertions baseless. As I (vaguely) recall your previous survey was not criticized because of its conclusions but because of its poorly worded questions and small sample size.
    Perhaps you would care to link to the original discussion to provide some evidence for your claim. That is pretty common practice in rational discussions.
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  7. pbjamm at 6

    Per your request is the link from last year's survey. I would like to know why you consider this request to not be objective. But, that is not a topic for this site. You can respond to the e-mail in #4.

    http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5TTX57B
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  8. Mark Harrigan - Great link, thanks!
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  9. I meant a link to the previous discussion where the denizens of SkS attacked you survey because the conclusions contradicted the group ideals.
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  10. A Pirate:
    One of the criticisms last year was the survey chose a graph showing long term (800,000) year climate with CO2 having a lag to temperature and then asked questions about current Global Climate Change. You biased the sample by showing an unrelated graph that suggested CO2 always follows warming. Perhaps this year you could show the GISS temperature graph first (which actually relates to AGW, unlike the ice core data you showed last year) and then ask if it is getting warmer? You could compare last years answers to this years answers and see if the lead in graph influences peoples responses.

    You claim your students make up the survey on their own but the graph they used was the same one that you used in one of your first posts to question Global Warming. If they use data that is independant from your opinions it will seem less biased. The impression that I was left with is that you teach your students that AGW is not occuring before they make up the survey.
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  11. I'd like your students' answers to the following. This would serve better as a diagnostic near the beginning of the course.

    1. Do you understand how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere works to keep the planet warmer than it would be without carbon dioxide?
    a. yes, very well
    b. yes, pretty much
    c. err . . . sort of
    d. not really
    e. no clue

    2. If you answered "yes" to question 1, choose the answer below that best describes the process of CO2 warmth.
    a. CO2 naturally emits heat and thus warms the atmosphere.
    b. Radiation from the planet's surface "bounces" around between "greenhouse" gas molecules before it eventually escapes to space.
    c. Greenhouse gases trap heat like a greenhouse roof.
    d. Since pressure causes heat, the weight of CO2 in the atmosphere causes the surface to warm.

    3. Atmospheric CO2 is increasing rapidly and has been for a century. How do we know that this increase is caused by humans?
    a. Humans cannot cause changes in the climate.
    b. We don't really know, but we have been releasing massive amounts of CO2 through the burning of fossil fuels and use of concrete.
    c. Studies show that features of the natural world, like the oceans, have stopped acting mainly as sources for CO2 and instead have been acting as sinks; at the same time, we are releasing massive amounts of CO2. We also have isotope studies.
    d. We don't know because the measurements of CO2 are all flawed and do not match each other.

    4. How much credence do you give to the idea that working climate scientists would intentionally misrepresent climate science in order to make more money for themselves?
    a. It's ridiculous. Climate scientists make good wages, and any funding they get they have to use on projects. A few make money on books, but the books did not have a market until the so-called 'skeptics' began to resist the message of the science.
    b. I can see how it might happen. After all, companies that make war machines profit from war, and they usually strongly support going to war.
    c. I doubt it; government-funded scientists don't have to work from the profit motive.
    d. Of course: it's all a giant hoax to rip off taxpayers.

    5. Natural climate cycles occur. The sun's radiated energy waxes and wanes. Earth's orbit wobbles and ovals. The continents move. La Nina and El Nino happen. How do we know that these natural cycles aren't responsible for 20th/21st century warming?
    a. I don't know.
    b. The cycles with all of those listed are either too long, too short, or too weak to match current warming, though there may be other cycles we don't know about, and that fact invalidates climate models.
    c. The cycles with all of those listed are either too long, too short, or too weak to match current warming.
    d. We do know that it is natural cycles. The sun is causing the current warming trend.

    6. What do the IPCC and other international agencies predict about global warming if we do nothing to stop it? Check all that apply.
    a. The Mississippi River will be dry in 100 years.
    b. There will be no summer ice in the Arctic by 2100.
    c. Plants and animals will be forced to adapt to changing conditions, and some species will become extinct.
    d. The Earth will be on average 10C warmer in 2100.
    e. The Earth will be on average 2-5C warmer in 2100.
    f. The seas will rise up and drown coastal cities.
    g. Many glaciers will melt, causing a loss of drinking water for tens of millions of people.
    h. The changes will cause big migrations of people.
    i. Over the next century, some areas will get more intense rainfall, and other areas will become very dry.
    j. People around the equator will burn to death.
    k. food and water prices will continue to rise rapidly.

    7. What is more important, a healthy economy or a healthy environment? Note that choosing one does not mean you think the other is not important.

    8. If you believe that a rapidly warming planet is a problem, how will (not "how can") that problem be solved?
    a. through individual action alone, using the mechanism of the free market.
    b. through government-subsidized clean energy start-ups.
    c. through direct government intervention.
    d. through government regulation programs like carbon trading.
    e. through cultural change, a movement to live differently.
    f. it won't be solved. We'll just have to pick up the pieces after the worst of it and then build the world in a better way.

    9. Do you think climate science should be publicly funded (as it is now)?
    a. yes
    b. yes, and funding should be increased
    c. no
    d. no - climate science should be subject to the forces of the market, like any other product

    10. How different will the world be for your grandchildren due to global warming?
    a. no different.
    b. different, but better, because we will have solved the problem.
    c. different -- worse, because people will be fighting for resources instead of working together.
    d. different, but only a little different because the problem isn't really that bad.
    e. different, but better because more territory and resources will be available in a warmer world.

    Willing to share your answers, pirate?
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  12. Come to think of it, I'd like your answers, pirate, before the course begins and your students' answers at the completion of the course.
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  13. I particularly like the second question, where you ask the respondents to determine whether temperatures are currently increasing, stable, or decreasing... "based on" a graph which does not SHOW current temperatures. That's a neat trick. How could anyone possibly think this survey was biased? Why, the gratuitous complaints about renewable energy being expensive and unreliable prior to asking whether respondents would be willing to pay higher energy costs to reduce CO2 levels alone shows how 'impartial' it is. :]
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  14. apiratelooksat50 - Just looked at your previous (last years) survey. It's horrible!

    You've preset your answers with limited and misleading information (as in question 2, "From the graph: the Earth's current average temperature is:", where your graph doesn't show current temperatures), 'poison the well' for the questions about renewables, load queries with words like 'disastrous', etc. It's about as unbiased as a "Clean Coal" advertisement, and clearly intended to lead the survey respondents into supporting your position.

    That's the kind of 'survey' I would expect from an ad agency drumming up support for a client, not from a teacher.
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  15. Why not show a graph like this? Then you might ask students to determine whether there is anything different about the temperature rise prior to the MWP and that of the last hundred years.

    What is the purpose of doing this survey? Are you going to have them retake the survey after they finish the unit? That would be a way to see if they've really learned something.
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  16. apirate... Yeah, I think some of your questions are leading. And question #4 (I think) said "according to this graph is global temp rising, stable or falling." Well, that's not a good chart (Vostok) to determine any trend in current temps.
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  17. Sweet, Dunk, KR, Honeycutt
    I am not asking for criticisms of last years survey. That was thoroughly done already. I am asking for your contributions to this years survey. It's easy to criticize. Harder to do!
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  18. apiratelooksat50 perhaps it would help if you were to specify the purpose of the survey. Usually the problem with survey design is that the purpose is unclear (or that the purpose is all too clear, but disingenuous). If you want a good survey design, you first need to be clear about the intent of the study.
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  19. Oh, and the survy is not for the students. It is a survey designed by the students.
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  20. Dikran at 18
    The purpose of the survey is to gauge the general knowledge, understanding, and beliefs of individuals asa pertaining to climate change, both historical, current and future. You are welcome to tweak that statement as well.
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  21. I would venture that is way too vague for a useful survey of only 10 questions, it seems a recipe for unintentionally biased questions as each question has to cover too much ground and hence must be quite nuanced. Might be better to have a survey of peoples knowledge of what the IPCC WG1 report actually says (giving an indication of knowledge of the mainstream scientific position). This would have the advantage that the questions would be based on specific IPCC statements and there would be ground truth for the answers.

    I suspect the knowledge of what the IPCC report actually says in the general public is rather better than in the readers of some "skeptic" blogs I could mention as they have had less exposure to disinformation. ;o)

    Here is one question:

    Neglecting feedback mechanisms, and assuming all other forcings remain constant, what is the direct effect on equilibrium global average surface temperatures of a doubling of atmsopheric CO2?

    (a) 2 degrees C
    (b) 1 degree C
    (c) 1/2 degree C
    (d) 1/4 degrees C
    (e) 0 degrees C

    Obviously a bit more thought needs to go into the exact wording of the question.
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  22. 1. Do you understand how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere works to keep the planet warmer than it would be without carbon dioxide?
    b. yes, pretty much

    2. If you answered "yes" to question 1, choose the answer below that best describes the process of CO2 warmth.
    c. Greenhouse gases trap heat like a greenhouse roof.

    3. Atmospheric CO2 is increasing rapidly and has been for a century. How do we know that this increase is caused by humans?
    b. We don't really know, but we have been releasing massive amounts of CO2 through the burning of fossil fuels and use of concrete.
    c. Studies show that features of the natural world, like the oceans, have stopped acting mainly as sources for CO2 and instead have been acting as sinks; at the same time, we are releasing massive amounts of CO2. We also have isotope studies.
    (These answers are awkwardly worded. Need to be revised.)

    4. How much credence do you give to the idea that working climate scientists would intentionally misrepresent climate science in order to make more money for themselves?
    (This is a ridiculous question and the answers more so. It has no place in a survey of this type and shows definite bias.)

    5. Natural climate cycles occur. The sun's radiated energy waxes and wanes. Earth's orbit wobbles and ovals. The continents move. La Nina and El Nino happen. How do we know that these natural cycles aren't responsible for 20th/21st century warming?
    (The answers were inadequate for this statement.)


    6. What do the IPCC and other international agencies predict about global warming if we do nothing to stop it? Check all that apply.
    c. Plants and animals will be forced to adapt to changing conditions, and some species will become extinct.
    e. The Earth will be on average 2-5C warmer in 2100.
    f. The seas will rise up and drown coastal cities.
    g. Many glaciers will melt, causing a loss of drinking water for tens of millions of people.
    h. The changes will cause big migrations of people.
    i. Over the next century, some areas will get more intense rainfall, and other areas will become very dry.
    k. food and water prices will continue to rise rapidly.

    7. What is more important, a healthy economy or a healthy environment? Note that choosing one does not mean you think the other is not important.
    (They are equally important. We should strive for responsible consumption by developed countries, and cooperation between governments, industries, and citizens to achieve a sustainable world.)

    8. If you believe that a rapidly warming planet is a problem, how will (not "how can") that problem be solved?

    9. Do you think climate science should be publicly funded (as it is now)?
    a. yes

    10. How different will the world be for your grandchildren due to global warming?
    d. different, but only a little different because the problem isn't really that bad.
    (Some things will be better. Some things will be worse. Some things will not change.)
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  23. Dikran at 21
    That IS a great question, but is beyond the capacity of the general public to answer. The goal of the survey is more general in nature.
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  24. apirate@23 With some work on the wording, it ought to be within reach of the general public. "What is the direct effect of a doubling of CO2 on global average surface temperatures, assuming all things remain otherwise the same". Doesn't have some of the important scientific qualifiers, but it is a reasonable question nevertheless.
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  25. Pirate,

    Since this survey is going out to a general audience, I would refrain from too many specifics, instead focusing on the general understanding of the target audience. I presume the nature of this exercise is for your students to be able to summarize the survey. Hence, I would suggest questions of the following nature:

    1. How well informed would you say you are about climate change? a) very well, b) well c) somewhat d)not very e) not at all
    2. In the past century, temperatures have? a) decreased significantly, b) decreased slightly, c) remained the same, d) increased slightly, e) increased significantly
    3. In the past century, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have? a) decreased by 25%, b) remained the same, c) increased by 30% d) almost doubled, e) risen by more than 3 times
    4. To what extend does atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide affect global temperatures? a) primary driver, b) one of many important factors c) minor contributor, d) not at all
    5. In the past century, what has been the greatest factor affecting Earth's temperature? a) the sun, b) the oceans, c) volcanic eruptions, d) urban development, e) CO2 and other greenhouise gases
    6. If global emissions of CO2 go unchecked, what will happen to temperatures in the future? a) rise to unsafe levels, b) increase slightly, c) remain the same, d) decrease slightly, e) unknown
    7. Same as last year
    8. Where does the pursuit of alternate sources of energy fall on your priority list? a) the top, b) top half c) middle d) lower half e) bottom
    9. What is your personal opinion about changing to alternate sources of energy? a) I cannot be bothered with it, b) I will change when it becomes cheaper, c) I am willing to pay a little more, d) I will change regardless of cost
    10. In all fields of science, knowledge grows with new developments. Compared to other scientific fields, how much do you feel scientists know about our climate? a) much more, b) slightly more , c) about the same, d) slightly less, e) much less
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  26. Chortle--come now, Pirate, you know the attitudes represented in the "ridiculous" answers to no. 4 are shared by powerful politicians and pundits in the U.S.. Surely we can expect these leaders to have some sway with the public. I was just trying to be "fair and balanced."

    It's clear from your answer to number 2 that your answer to number 1 is wrong. Greenhouse gases do not trap heat like a greenhouse roof. The "bounce" answer was better, even though "bounce" (in quotes) is shorthand for "is repeatedly absorbed and emitted," and the mechanism whereby increased GHGs causes increased available energy is implied. I'll admit the survey wasn't produced by my normal writing process. (i.e. it was 'whipped out').

    No. 5: provide an adequate answer.

    No. 6: "The seas will rise up and drown coastal cities." Where is this supported in the literature?

    Remember, this is a survey, not a test. It is designed to survey initial attitudes and basic understandings. It is not designed to test knowledge learned in a structured learning environment. A test would need to take into account course objectives. And, of course, as I've said elsewhere: "survey schmurvey." If I'm assigning the survey creation, I could care less about the actual answers to the questions. I'm far more interested in how the students justify the question text and choices (form and content). Indeed, I would probably have them, as small groups, provide a thorough statement of justification for each question. I'd then have them submit their surveys for professional and peer feedback. They'd then revise (and reflect on the revisions).
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  27. "The purpose of the survey is to gauge the general knowledge, understanding, and beliefs of individuals asa pertaining to climate change, both historical, current and future. You are welcome to tweak that statement as well."

    The author of the survey flunked, then.
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  28. pirate#19: "the survy is not for the students. It is a survey designed by the students. "

    Physics uses 'concept inventories': before and after assessments. Observed change from pre-conceived opinion to some level of understanding is easy to quantify with these results in hand.

    I'm not seeing the educational benefit to a survey-writing exercise in a science class. Are you taking steps to preclude your students form basing their own conclusions on the opinions expressed by a potentially misinformed population? Or are you just looking for another 'datapoint' in the never ending quest to show there's no consensus?
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  29. pirate,

    I think you should be putting a lot more energy into advancing our discussion before you teach too much one way or the other about climate science to your students. Based on where we are so far in the discussion, I know that you have huge gaps and misunderstandings about the science. It would be best if we filled those gaps and corrected the misunderstandings as soon as possible. One of the hardest things to do with a student is to un-teach something once they've learned it. Their misconceptions then go on to poison everything they attempt to learn afterwards.
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  30. muoncounter@28
    Our school is an early college academy where students can get dual credits in high school and college level courses. We are also an Exemplary Writing School and focus on writing.

    The educational benefit to writing a survey is valid. In ANY class writing and reading are paramount.

    1. It is writing using an economy of words in a way that is easily understandable.
    2. Writing the survey in the best attempt to remain neutral and not present a bias is not an easy task for anyone (see #11).
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  31. Sphaerica at 30
    We do need to continue our dialogue. I am now back from Wisconsin and swim season is winding down. My request for some of the posters here to design the survey is genuine.
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  32. pirate#30: "writing using an economy of words in a way that is easily understandable."

    That description applies equally well to lab and research reports, which are richer in content.

    "Writing the survey in the best attempt to remain neutral ... is not an easy task"

    agreed. So I would think you would want your students to have already learned something about the subject before attempting this difficult task. Unless your school year is vastly different, it's pretty early to have finished the subject of climate change. What information are your students using as the basis for their questions?
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  33. As usual, because I read around blogs so much, I tend to come into discussions late. However, the subject of science communication to ‘non-scientists’ has interested me for many years – indeed I was a qualified trainer in industrial science matters for several years.

    I applaud your efforts immensely but I fear they will fail to largely counteract the AGW skeptic spin.

    In my opinion, most ‘ordinary’ people, (now out of Education), learn about diverse subjects from either printed media, (magazines, newspapers etc.) and Television / Film. Of these two main groups I think Television / Film is the more persuasive since the audience is more ‘captive’ than those casually reading – altho’ I accept they can switch the telly off.

    The evidence I claim that supports my view is, for example, Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth on the one hand, and for example, the UK TV program “The Great Global warming Swindle “by (“You’re a big daft c**k”) Martin Durkin which was found by independent enquiry to have been partial.

    Further support comes from Sir Paul Nurse’s expose of AGW denier James Delingpole and the three part UK TV series by the BBC, The Climate Wars by Dr Ian Stewart. In this latter series of 3 programmes, Spencer, particularly, is exposed as the fraudulent scientist he is – and even Patrick Michaels admitted on camera that GW was real! I find it strange that the BBC hasn’t released this series on DVD.

    I’m sure any of you readers will recall similar ‘visual’ presentations affecting public learning.

    So what has this to do with climate change communication and http://climatecommunication.org/. ?

    Well, I simple believe the only way to convince large masses of ‘ordinary’ people of the gravity and causes of Climate Change is by film or television documentary by recognised non-political scientists.

    That is not to say printed media should be ignored but it is generally recognised that in the USA, much of the media is literally in the pockets of fossil fuel interests and they will never admit to any publishing any real facts that will diminish the profits of those interests, or ‘hurt’ the US economy as they define it. Newspapers also deliberately try to generate debate – to improve sales.

    So I urge http://climatecommunication.org/ to really consider a series of scientifically based TV documentaries, by appropriate independent scientists and/or effective questioning media presenters, to be sold around the world.
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  34. My request was an honest attempt to allow the followers of this site to design a survey that my classes could disseminate and analyze results. Very, very few people offered anything constructive (with the exception of Jonathan, Muon, etc...), instead most of what was posted was kvetching.

    The idea has evolved, but I seriously would like a survey that I could present in a before/after context to the students, and eventually to the local public (science department, general faculty, etc...).

    You obviously know my stance and question anything coming from underneath my sphere of influence. I think it would be enlightning to all involved to post a survey from a pro-AGW person and compare the results.

    It is very difficult to create an unbiased survey. I welcome the opportunity from the truly learned people on SKS to educate myself and my students.
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  35. A pirate,
    You can always google climate surveys to see what others have put together. There are numerous reports from various organizations surveying the general public, why reinvent the wheel? I would look at surveys that scientific organizations used (or surveys that went into peer reviewed papers). If you find 5 or 10 surveys you can pick the questions that you like the best.

    You must decide what the focus of your survey is. Do you want to survey peoples scientific understanding of AGW, or do you want to survey peoples beliefs on human versus natural causes of climate change, or do you want to probe peoples political stance on actions that should be taken? Do you want to identify misunderstandings? You would use different questions depending on your goals.

    A couple of different approaches have been suggested on this thread. Perhaps if your request was more specific you could get a few more questions on what you are interested in. A quick Google search will save you much time.
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  36. Yes, please, tell us what you want to measure, Pirate. Is it attitudes? Knowledge of theory? Fundamentals of physics? Mitigation?
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  37. Pirate, I think you need two things.

    First, the survey needs a purpose. Simply gathering information with no focus or objective is too open ended.

    Second, you talk about a before/after context, but this would require some intermediate step whose impact you are trying to evaluate.

    I would suggest settling on a specific purpose. Is it to find out how many blatant misconceptions most people have? To demonstrate to them how little they know, or how complex the science is, or how much scientists do know? How influenced they are by politics? What they learn from a new, surprising source of information?

    The second item -- the before/after effect -- is going to depend entirely on what it is that you expect to happen between the surveys, and as a result, that will define the content of your survey.

    I would actually suggest either writing a brief article (and submit it here for "peer review") or choosing a sampling of key articles from this site. Write a survey that can be given before and after reading the chosen articles, or one for before and a different one for after. Once that step is done, the content and phrasing of the survey will probably become obvious.

    Then you can execute it... give the survey, let the population do the reading, then repeat (or give the second) survey.

    I personally like the idea of a survey that highlights how much is known and certain in climate science, and what the sources of information are. I think most people would be surprised at how clever and accurate paleoclimate studies and observations are, and what we are able to infer accurately and unequivocally from them.
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  38. The communication problem is that rational argument frequently does not succeed in changing peoples' minds. This excellent site provides the rational argument, but do not for a moment think that its words will affect entrenched ideas. We need to woo people, not bludgeon them with facts. See the interesting article "How Facts Backfire" at http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/07/11/how_facts_backfire/
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    Response:

    [DB] Hot-linked URL.

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