Why scientists are struggling to bring the climate change message home

A woman and a child being assisted to cross a flooded street in Bamburi, Mombasa. [Courtesy]

We hear about climate change all the time. It’s happening in the form of extreme weather events.

We also know there will be more of these events in the years ahead. But why, after decades of mounting evidence and warnings we’ve done so little for a meaningful change?

Science communication is a key link between generated science and the impact it generates on the ground.

The climate change science communication by the scientists has not gotten the message home.

The masses are not connecting the extreme weather conditions and their current actions. People don’t understand what they need to do at individual levels to avoid a climate disaster.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5° degrees limit doesn’t make sense to a citizen walking the streets of Mumbai or Johannesburg.

The mitigation and adaptation science has to be broken down into simple actionable undertakings. In this light, we look at major hindrances to climate science communication.

Lack of clarity

People have not been told by climate scientists the dos and don’ts of the looming climate disaster. It is not in the public domain how citizens can tweak their livelihoods to become sustainable.

Monologue vs dialogue

Participation of people in the process of sustainable development is an indispensable condition for its realisation. scientists need to embrace a bottom-up approach and not the usual top-down down.

Limited access to scientific literature

Lack of information breeds ignorance. Lamentably, most scientific journals are not freely accessible.

They need a subscription fee and some are not available on some continents.

This pushes the interested audience back to the default mode of climate change illiteracy.

In the absence of careful framing, communication can undermine scientific evidence and thwart critically important behaviour change. Science works, let’s embrace it.

-The author is a sustainability consultant