Thursday, October 13, 2011

Interesting Climate Articles

There are a couple of interesting climate articles in the latest Physics Today.  The first should be publicly available, but the second might be limited to use from the University of Utah and other locations with a Physics Today site license.  Click and maybe you'll get lucky.

The first, Science Controversies Past and Present by Steven Sherwood, is an interesting piece on the history of public reaction to major paradigm shifts in scientific theory.  Having worked to communicate climate issues for the public, politicians, and decision makers for several years, I found this to be a fascinating article, especially the discussion of public reaction to Einstein's theory of general relativity and how Einstein stopped giving public lectures for a while out of fear for his personal safety.

The second, Communicating the Science of Climate Change by Richard Somerville and Susan Joy Hassol argues that it is essential that climate scientists better communicate their findings to the public.  A number of issues are discussed and a table presented summarizing some important terms that have different meanings for scientists and the public.

Source: Somerville and Hassol (2011)
While I enjoyed the article, and I agree that it is important for scientists to communicate science as effectively as possible, the authors seem to imply that if scientists were better communicators and if the public had a better education, we would see major progress in climate policy.  I don't share this perspective.  Politics is not rational.  Knowledge doesn't always translate directly to policy action, let alone effective policy action.

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