by Judith Curry
Keith Kloor was also struck by this comment, and he has reproduced it on this thread at Collide-a-Scape.
What’s the goal of risk communication about climate change? To get people to ‘believe’? To see the issue the way the communicator wants them to? To get people to do what the communicator wants them to do? Or is it just to impart information so people can make up their own minds…which, frankly, sounds wonderfully moral and democratic and all, but…let’s be honest here…is less than what the people concerned about climate change really want. A lot of this conversation is about finding ways to get people to believe in climate change, and care about it enough to help promote change and progress and solutions. To the extent THAT is the goal, there are two HUGE hurdles. First, as I’ve written, because of its affective/emotional characteristics, even among those who believe in climate change, the issue just doesn’t worry people enough to get them to act. Second, risk communication that feels manipulative usually fails. People resist being manipulated. We are more willing to change than BE changed. So the risk communication challenge, even using mental models, is, to not only inform, but do so in a way that accounts for how the issue feels to folks, AND which doesn’t make people feel like they are being encouraged/pushed/manipulated to reach a particular conclusion.
Communicating climate science has been an enduring theme at Climate Etc. Whenever I do a post on this topic, hard core skeptics invariably object, implying the goal of better communication about climate science is to “con” the public into supporting the preferred policy options of the climate establishment. That is not my personal goal in communicating climate, but I have to admit that it is the goal of many, and certainly of Al Gore. As I’ve interpreted it, the UNFCCC/IPCC ideology regards the physical basis of climate science as part and parcel of climate change being dangerous and the need for mitigatory action.
If climate science and its public communication was separated from the objective of encouraging/pushing/manipulating people to support specific solutions, I suspect that we could have an honest scientific debate about climate change. The value-ladenness and prescriptive nature of much communication about climate change results in a backlash by people who don’t want to be manipulated into policy choices. Wishful thinking, but I think Ropeik articulates the issue very well.