Daily Archives: July 21, 2011

Stephen Schneider and the “Double Ethical Bind” of Climate Change Communication

By Judith Curry

On the first anniversary of Steve Schneider’s untimely death, it is worth reflecting on his contributions at the intersection of climate science, policy, politics and media in the public communication of climate change.  Schneider’s views on this topic are infamously characterized by his 1989 statement (page 5 of the link):

On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.

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