Communicating Climate Change: Problems and Strategies

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Dr. Mauelshagen

Global climate change is a complex scientific issue, but climatologists frequently fail to communicate their findings and the conclusions they draw for political action, provoking misunderstanding and opposition among the general public. Climate denialists, their counterparts, seem to be much more successful in communicating their messages, particularly when using strategies of scandalization and denunciation to raise public attention. Dr. Mauelshagen argues that climate as defined by modern climatology suffers from being an abstract and boring statistical construction – based on technologically supported systems of global observation and measurement, or complex reconstructions from indirect information (for all periods before measurement).
    As a consequence, global climate (change) is imperceptible, it cannot be experienced, and nobody – apart from a relatively small group of experts – can judge climate science. Quite logically, climate science wrenches public opinion into two, almost equally strong groups: believers and non-believers in anthropogenic global warming. In this “black-and-white” world, with each side believing to be “white,” while the others represent “black,” a change of strategy may be suggested to climate scientists, such as using more popular tools of communication more often. An example for this is the google earth layer, to be developed by a global group of researches, which will be introduced to the audience. At the same time, it will be emphasized that climate science needs to recognize climate change as a social reality just as much as it recognizes it (and wants it to be recognized) as a proven physical matter of fact.

Dr. Franz Mauelshagen

Dr. Franz Mauelshagen is a research fellow at the KWI – the Institute of Advanced Study in the Humanities – in Essen. There, he is also the programme coordinator of “Climate and Culture” and the principal investigator of a new research group on “Climates of Migration”. He holds a PhD in History. In recent years, most of his work has focused on the history of disasters and on climate history.