Climate Change Communication:
Bridging Science and Society
BY DARYL RAMAI
What if your chapter was given the opportunity to present a documentary or give a speech to an audience on climate change — how amazing would that be? Or, what if you had the chance to speak about climate change and other
media-covered science topics with peers, community members, or
family? Such situations might be a little nerve-wracking, but they
could still be life-changing opportunities.
But how would you go about preparing? What strategies would
you use to articulate your ideas? How would you deal with someone who challenged the reality of climate change?
In recent years, climate change has become the epicenter of
much political and bioethical debate. The scientific community
continues to urge leaders to draft policies aimed at guiding a more
sustainable approach to addressing climate change. Yet, however
robust these efforts may be, there are still individuals who are not
aware of the reality of climate change and its present-day effects.
Let’s explore a few ways to ensure that you can be more effective
in communicating the impact of global climate change.
The science behind climate is vast, and quite technical. However,
as communicators, it is your duty to convert such technical material into simplified and relatable language. For instance, except for
fellow scientists, hardly anyone will sit through a detailed discussion of complicated physical chemistry equations involving CO2.
Thus, it is important to simplify your presentation — while keeping
it interesting enough to capture the audience’s attention. Make
your message interesting by using analogies, real-life examples,
A great content summary on climate change can
be accessed using the ACS Climate Science Toolkit
( www.acs.org/climatescience). The Union of Concerned
Scientists and the American Association for the advancement
of Science also have excellent materials available on their
sites. But as good as these resources are, many people really
aren’t interested in listening to general facts on climate change.
Instead, people are more interested in hearing how climate change
will affect them. Mention a rise in CO2 and global temperatures,
and the response might be mediocre at best, but mention a rise in
temperature that could affect agriculture, including the cost and
availability of food, the frequency of extreme weather, and coastal
flooding, and suddenly you’ve got their attention!
Thus, in communicating climate change, it is important to
show that climate change is a present reality — and not merely
something that might occur in the distant future. Focusing on the
present helps to emphasize the urgency of climate change — and
of policies that will slow its progression.
Another strategy you can use is to ask the audience what
climate change effects they are aware of at present. Ask leading
questions to get them to provide examples that are easily relatable. These might include the distinction between weather and
climate; the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,
especially CO2, that are due to human activities; the rapidly
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
The 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UNFCCC
TAKE ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE — REPRESENT ACS AT COP 22 IN MOROCCO!
As an ACS student member, you can represent ACS at the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) November 7–18, 2016, in Morocco. The ACS student-led climate literacy project uses
the annual COP as an international platform and leverages your social networking skills as a tool—Twitter, Facebook, Students on Climate
Change blog, Instagram, You Tube, BuzzFeed, and more—to engage peers and the general public in climate change literacy and education.
For more information, go to: http://faculty.ycp.edu/~gfoy/COP22App.htm. Or visit the Students on Climate Change booth at the
graduate school recruiting event at the ACS spring meeting in San Diego on Sunday, March 13, from 1:00 – 5:00 PM in the Marriott
Marquis San Diego Marina, Ballroom B, or attend the symposium “Perspectives on Climate Change Literacy and Education; Local to
International” on Sunday, March 13, 1:30–5:20 PM, in the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego, Promenade B.