• September 24, 2021

Exclusive: Scientists Aim For Clearer Messages On Global Warming

 Exclusive: Scientists Aim For Clearer Messages On Global Warming

Here’s a sentence that’s basically unintelligible to most people: Humans must mitigate global warming by pursuing an unprecedented transition to a carbon neutral economy. A recent study found that some of the most common terms in climate science are confusing to the general public. From a report: The study tested words that are frequently used in international climate reports, and it concluded that the most confusing terms were “mitigation,” “carbon neutral” and “unprecedented transition.” “I think the main message is to avoid jargon,” says Wandi Bruine de Bruin, a behavioral scientist at the University of Southern California and the lead author of the study. “That includes words that may seem like everyone should understand them.”

For example, participants in the study mixed up the word “mitigation,” which commonly refers to efforts that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with the word “mediation,” which is a way to resolve disputes. And even simple terms such as “carbon” can be misleading, the study found. Sometimes, carbon is shorthand for carbon dioxide. Other times, it’s used to refer to multiple greenhouse gases. “As experts in a particular field, we may not realize which of the words that we’re using are jargon,” says Bruine de Bruin.

The study is the latest indication that scientists need to do a better job communicating about global warming, especially when the intended audience is the general public. Clear climate communication gets more important every day because climate change is affecting every part of life on Earth. Nurses, doctors, farmers, teachers, engineers and business executives need reliable, accessible information about how global warming is affecting their patients, crops, students, buildings and businesses. And extreme weather this summer — from floods to fires, hurricanes to droughts — underscores the urgency of clear climate communication.

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Reporters Team

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