Report on East Anglia Controversy and the Challenge of Communicating Climate Science

by kp2002 on April 2, 2010

Climate change science continues to be prominent in the news. On March 31, the British House of Commons Science and Technology Committee released a report that dismisses charges of dishonesty and scientific misconduct leveled against scientists at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. The charges arose after email messages and other documents were hacked from an East Anglia server and released by climate change skeptics. At the same time, the report calls for greater transparency in climate research and issues a directive to climate scientists:

“A great responsibility rests on the shoulders of climate science: to provide the planet’s decision makers with the knowledge they need to secure our future. The challenge that this poses is extensive and some of these decisions risk our standard of living. When the prices to pay are so large, the knowledge on which these kinds of decisions are taken had better be right. The science must be irreproachable.”

Though most climatologists would argue that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence pointing to global warming, the public’s acceptance of the reality of global warming has declined of late (see surveys recently conducted by Yale and George Mason Universities). Communicating climate science has proven a difficult task: there is broad interest in climate change among varied audiences, but many do not have a solid understanding of the research data. And skeptics can pop up in unexpected places, as is detailed in a recent Columbia Journalism Review article about the climate-change skepticism among a significant number of television meteorologists.

So what do climate scientists need to do to make the scientific data widely accessible and interpretable? On Tuesday, April 6, the Scholarly Communication Program will be hosting a panel discussion on the challenges of communicating climate change science, featuring speakers from NOAA’s Climate Program Office, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Columbia’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions. Please join us! More info

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