Searching for Clearer Climate Change Messaging

Although clear climate communication is more important than ever, many people find even basic terminology about climate change confusing, research shows.

September 19, 2021, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


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Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz / Shutterstock

"A recent study found that some of the most common terms in climate science are confusing to the general public," reports Rebecca Hersher, leading scientists and activists to seek better ways of communicating with the public.

"Clear climate communication gets more important every day because climate change is affecting every part of life on Earth. Nurses, doctors, farmers, teachers, engineers and business executives need reliable, accessible information about how global warming is affecting their patients, crops, students, buildings and businesses."

The group of scientists working on the 2023 National Climate Assessment, "the most comprehensive, public-facing climate change report for the U.S.," has been tasked with improving the language used in the next report. Allison Crimmins, the director of the assessment, says "[c]limate scientists and people who communicate about climate science have a responsibility to think about the terminology they use." According to Crimmins, "one way to make the information clearer is to present it in many different ways."

For its part, "[t]he United Nations has also tried to make its climate change reports more accessible. The most recent report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was more than 3,900 pages long and highly technical, but it also included a two-page summary that stated the main points in simple language, such as, 'It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.'"

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