The issue of climate change has received so much attention in recent years that it has become difficult for interested citizens and policymakers to separate facts from fiction. Climate change is one of the most cutting edge research fields in modern science, but the field has existed for more than a century and much knowledge has been established with high certainty and confidence. This FAQ clears up some of the most common misconceptions about the science of climate change.
The document covers misconceptions about the sun’s influence on climate change, the pre-industrial (non-anthropogenic) changes in climate, the data from the last decade, the question of whether or not there is a scientific consensus, 1970’s predictions of global cooling, and the role of water vapor. After the introduction, it has one page devoted to each of these six topics. It’s a straightforward rebuttal of some of the key arguments made by the climate crisis deniers.
The FAQ document is clear and concise, if a bit vanilla in design, so there’s nothing wrong with it per se. And the Pew Center’s web site contains other FAQ and “Facts and Figures” pages. Bu it’s all rather sleep-inducing…
Part of me wonders about whether this just continues to feed the frame of scientific debate about the issue. I can see a group like the Competitive Disinformation Institute very easily coming out with their own FAQ on the exact same topics where they cherry-pick the sources they want to support their counter-claims. And back and forth we go…
A few years ago, I thought we had moved past that. But the way things are going these days, I don’t know. The denialists are still getting traction. If not so much in the mainstream media, then certainly online and in books. Go ahead and do a search on Amazon for “global warming,” then have a look at just how many of the first page of hits (16) are books by denialists. Go ahead and count them, then come back here and post a comment with your answer and reactions.
Another part of me wonders why Pew, with all their resources, can’t come up with more engaging and relevant communication about the climate crisis. Shouldn’t this organization be able to mount a more compelling response to the seemingly endless debate?
Thinking about this, I was reminded of the YouTube video from a couple of years ago, The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See. Remember that one? OK, don’t click over and watch it just yet, because its creator made a revised and improved version called “How it All Ends,” embedded here for your viewing pleasure.
Chances are that you are among the 7 million people who has watched one or more of Greg Craven‘s (aka wonderingmind42) wonderful short videos on how to think about the climate crisis (well, you are now!). Incidentally, they are all indexed and being translated over at The Manpollo Project. I think there are something like 7 hours of video (you can also get them on a DVD).
By the way, one of The Manpollo Project’s stated aims is:
to shift the question often asked in popular culture from “Are we certain we’re responsible for global warming?” to “Given the risks and uncertainties of global warming, what is the best action to take?”
It turns out that Craven was offered a deal to turn the videos into a book (go figure). That book, What’s the Worst that Could Happen, is now out and costs just $10.
If my point is not obvious yet, let me spell it out. On one side we have a heavily-endowed charitable trust. On the other side, one person, a science teacher and parent (so it’s not like he has time on his hands). Which has had the greater impact on global warming discourse?
Now, of course, Pew has a certain audience for their FAQs, but does the public really want to read more “facts and figures?” I don’t want to dismiss Pew’s work, but I think their communication strategy is a bit old school. I can’t imagine they have reached anywhere near the audience for Craven’s videos.
And why were the videos so popular? Because he used the number-one social media channel (YouTube), had a compelling message (forget the debate, just bring on the precautionary principle), and presented it in an engaging and accessible manner (self-depricating humor and explosions, etc.).
Maybe this is an unfair comparison, but I do think this should give us some pause as we contemplate how to engage the public around the climate crisis.