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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Failure to Communicate?

Leslie Cannold had an interesting opinion piece in Melbourne's The Age last week entitled "What We Have is the Failure to Communicate," in which she argues "failure of communication and tactics, not of understanding may be the cause of inaction on climate change." Cannold repeats much of the mantra associated with climate change communication challenges, from feelings of powerlessness created by images of climate catastrophe to the perceived self-importance of scientists that constantly spruik the complexity of the science at the risk of alienating the man on the street. Acknowledging and addressing these gaps in our ability to effectively communicate, argues Cannold, is key to moving the policy machinery around climate change.

Such hypotheses are now commonplace in the climate community, yet there's another possibility which few seem ready to accept. Perhaps it's not that people don't understand climate change, nor that scientists are communicating ineffectively. Perhaps it's simply that the public has heard the messages, internalised them and even understands them, yet has still decided that the consequences of climate change just don't rate among the spectrum of things people care about. At the end of the day, it's difficult to argue why one value position is superior to another, which is what those advocating for progressive policy stances on climate change are attempting.

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