audiences and help professional communicators more accurately convey scientific information to the public.
Professional norms for scientists will need to change for them to engage in this work. Their institutions need to encourage and reward scientists for getting out of their laboratories. Science education at the undergraduate and graduate levels could more explicitly include training in science communications. The high relevance of climate science to society creates strong incentives for such changes.
One measure of success would be more public voices validating and endorsing climate science. Nonpartisan voices outside the scientific community could help define what climate change means for the public. Another measure of success would be more local coverage of the effects of climate change and of local responses to change, which is likely to be less polarized than coverage at the national level. A final measure of success would be greater public perception of the importance of the issue. Today, many members of the public rank climate change as a relatively low-level concern. If climate science were more widely disseminated and understood, the salience of the issue would increase, Huertas concluded.
Most Americans do not have enough time to learn about climate change in depth, said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, during the discussion session of the breakout group on climate change. But if it were possible to convey five simple ideas about climate change to everyone, Leiserowitz’s proposed list would be the following:
1. It’s real.
2. It’s us.
3. It’s bad.
4. There’s hope.
5. Scientists agree.
The climate communications community has not done an adequate job of communicating these ideas, said Leiserowitz. Yet if the American public understood and accepted these key ideas, people would be able to make more informed decisions both now and in the future.
According to polls, the majority of Americans—63 percent as of April 2013—currently believe that global warming is happening. But only about half of Americans believe that global warming is caused mostly by human activities, while a third believe that global warming is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment. Critically, only 4 in 10 Americans