Why Climate Change Reporting is so Difficult?

Why Climate Change Reporting is so Difficult?

Scientists agree that anthropogenic climate change is happening, so it should not be so complicated to present the multitude of facts available. However, there is a difference between presenting the data and making an impact. Repeating the facts may be easy, but that does not connect with people. Reporting on climate change requires explaining probabilities and conveying uncertainties, the two subjects that we, as humans, are inherently bad at making sense of. It also needs to convince people that future changes matter now, even when those changes may occur half way across the globe. Finally, perhaps one of the most difficult problems lies in the way we refer to climate chance as a ‘global’ issue.

Climate change is definitely a global event, but the emphasis on phrasing it as a global issue distances it from being anyone’s issue at all. If everyone is responsible for it, then it is harder to rationalise individual responsibility for making changes. We should emphasise the local impacts that people can understand and relate to in order to expect individuals to act.

We can talk about polar bears but they will hardly convince people outside the northern regions to make changes to their lifestyles. We need to talk about things that matter where they matter: flooding in Netherlands, drought in Lithuania, disease vectors in Italy. Only by making climate change a personal issue we can incentivise individuals to create a global change.

I am a PhD student, studying virology at the University of Oxford. I hope to become a science journalist after finishing my thesis. I moved to the UK from Lituania to study for BSc at Imperial College. I enjoy communicating science to different audiences, from explaining the basic scientific concepts to writing about the latest research breakthroughs. Scientific method helps me to make sense of the world and I think good science communication is essential for creating a better society.

A voice from the Triangulation through Science Communication project.