I asked the researcher I discuss in this post their thoughts and they pointed out that I had the quote from Mary Robinson incorrect- I had remembered the first sentence, but in fact it came from the previous paragraph in the speech. Here is the quote as presented in the symposium:
In hard times, it can be difficult to attend to the long-term. When
recession and debt pose urgent constraints, 10 year targets and 50
year plans may seem a luxury. Climate Change can appear far away in
both time and space and yet of course it is not far away – it is not
merely a long-term problem. Climate change is what we are doing right
here and now.
I was also asked to clarify that the Phd research is not in climate science communication but in Communications -”Environmental Risk and the Social Script.”
The thrust of my post still remains, these clarifications notwithstanding: I still feel that certain political assumptions about climate change were being made, with the presentation being framed around Robinson’s point that “Climate Change is what we are doing right here and now”.}
I attended a recent symposium on Connecting Science and Policy in Dublin on Thursday and Friday, and learned a lot from some very interesting presentations.
One of the last talks was however by a Phd candidate on communicating climate science.
This presentation worried me for several reasons.
The talk began by saying that NGOs play a major role of science communicators, but that they still use the dominant “behavior-change” model; this was questioned for its effectiveness, although no real alternative was outlined.
Mary Robinson’s 2010 address in Dublin Reshaping the Debate on Climate Change was quoted:
Climate change is what we are doing right here and right now. That this proximity is often forgotten is testament to the many ways in which the headline debates about climate change can lead us astray. For example we tend to think of climate change as something invisible something that is taking place behind the scenes so to speak but it is actually very visible. It’s visible in the disappearing glaciers and the rapidly receding snows of Kilimanjaro. It’s visible in the carbon monoxide plumes of rush hour traffic and the city lights that you see flying on an aeroplane. It’s visible in the 10cm of sea level rise around the Irish coast since 1900 and the one billion sterling a year that the British Government now spends on flood damage.
The emphasis here was that climate change is happening right here, right now, rather than an abstract idea somewhere in the future.
But with this we run into trouble straight away: leaving aside the rather odd suggestion that we can see climate change in carbon monoxide (presumably as an indicator of carbon dioxide that must also be there), I think the melting snows of Kilimanjaro have been shown to be largely due to changes in land-use and deforestation rather than CO2, so this is probably a bad example;
but the “billion sterling a year spent on flood damage” is surely much worse: using costs to indicate rising storm damage or flood damage is never a good idea, though it is often done, because of inflation, increasing value of property with economic growth, population increases and general bad policies such as building on flood-planes; one would have to be very careful to unpack such figures if one wants to use them as evidence of man-made global warming. (more…)