James Stafford: You've talked a lot about the role of communication and PR in the climate change debate. Where do scientists fail in this respect?
Judith Curry: Climate science communication hasn't been very effective in my opinion. The dominant paradigm seems to be that a science knowledge deficit of the public and policy makers exists, which is exacerbated by the Koch-funded climate denial machine. This knowledge deficit then results in the public failing to act with the urgency that is urged by climate scientists.
This strategy hasn't worked for a lot of reasons. The chief one that concerns me as a scientist is that strident advocacy and alarmism is causing the public to lose trust in scientists.
James Stafford: What is the balance between engagement with the public on this issue and propaganda?
Judith Curry: There are two growing trends in climate science communications – engagement and propaganda. Engagement involves listening and recognizes that communication is a two-way street. It involves collaboration between scientists, the public and policy makers, and recognizes that the public and policy makers don't want to be told what to do by scientists. The other trend has been propaganda. The failure of the traditional model of climate science communication has resulted in more exaggeration and alarmism, appeals to authority, appeals to fear, appeals to prejudice, demonizing those that disagree, name-calling, oversimplification, etc.
There is a burgeoning field of social science research related to science communications. Hopefully this will spur more engagement and less propaganda.
James Stafford: You've also talked about the climate change debate creating a new literary genre. How is this 'Cli-Fi' phenomenon contributing to the intellectual level of the public debate and where do you see this going?
Judith Curry: I am very intrigued by Cli-Fi as a way to illuminate complex aspects of the climate debate. There are several sub-genres emerging in Cli-Fi – the dominant one seems to be dystopian (e.g. scorched earth). I am personally very interested in novels that involve climate scientists dealing with dilemmas, and also in how different cultures relate to nature and the climate. I think that Cli-Fi is a rich vein to be tapped for fictional writing.
James Stafford: How would you describe the current intellectual level of the climate change debate?
Judith Curry: Well, the climate change debate seems to be diversifying, as sociologists, philosophers, engineers and scientists from other fields enter the fray. There is a growing realization that the UNFCCC/IPCC has oversimplified both the problem and its solution. The wicked climate problem is growing increasingly wicked, as more and more dimensions come into play. The diversification helps with the confirmation bias and 'groupthink' problem.
Hopefully this diversification will lead to greater understanding and policies that are more robust to the deep uncertainties surrounding the climate change problem.
James Stafford: You've also talked about the "Kardashian Factor" ... Can you expand on this?
Judith Curry is an American climatologist and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, as well as the co-author of over 140 scientific papers. Her prolific writings offer a rational view of the climate change debate. You can find more of Judith's work at her blog: JudithCurry.com.
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