Climate change continues to drive energy policy, despite the fact that there is no way to reconcile eradicating energy poverty in much of the world with reducing carbon dioxide emissions. This is one of the many conundrums of the climate change debate—a debate that has been taken over by social media and propaganda, while scientists struggle to get back into the game and engage the public.
Judith Curry is an American climatologist and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, as well as the co-author of over 140 scientific papers. Her prolific writings offer a rational view of the climate change debate. You can find more of Judith's work at her blog: JudithCurry.com
Oilprice.com: You've talked a lot about the role of communication and PR in the climate change debate. Where do scientists fail in this respect?
Judith Curry: Climate science communication hasn't been very effective in my opinion. The dominant paradigm seems to be that a science knowledge deficit of the public and policy makers exists, which is exacerbated by the Koch-funded climate denial machine. This knowledge deficit then results in the public failing to act with the urgency that is urged by climate scientists.
This strategy hasn't worked for a lot of reasons. The chief one that concerns me as a scientist is that strident advocacy and alarmism is causing the public to lose trust in scientists.
OP: What is the balance between engagement with the public on this issue and propaganda?
Judith Curry: There are two growing trends in climate science communications – engagement and propaganda. Engagement involves listening and recognizes that communication is a two-way street. It involves collaboration between scientists, the public and policy makers, and recognizes that the public and policy makers don't want to be told what to do by scientists.
The other trend has been propaganda. The failure of the traditional model of climate science communication has resulted in more exaggeration and alarmism, appeals to authority, appeals to fear, appeals to prejudice, demonizing those that disagree, name-calling, oversimplification, etc.
There is a burgeoning field of social science research related to science communications. Hopefully this will spur more engagement and less propaganda.