What We Talk About When We Talk About Climate Change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is preparing its Fifth Assessment Report, with the input of 831 experts selected from among 3,000 nominations. As Andy Revkin reports on Dot Earth, these 831 experts have been sent a letter from IPCC chairman Rajendra K. Pachauri which, without mentioning ClimateGate by name, acknowledges the very charged atmosphere surrounding the media’s portrayal of climate science:
I would also like to emphasize that enhanced media interest in the work of the IPCC would probably subject you to queries about your work and the IPCC. My sincere advice would be that you keep a distance from the media and should any questions be asked about the Working Group with which you are associated, please direct such media questions to the Co-chairs of your Working Group and for any questions regarding the IPCC to the secretariat of the IPCC.
But just in case it’s impractical to keep one’s distance, the IPCC also offers a background memo, produced by Resource Media, with tips for dealing with journalists. It describes journalists generally: “overworked,” “underpaid,” and “inquisitive” — but also “skeptical,” “jaded,” and “world-weary.” (Sounds about right to me.) It tells the researchers what journalists want (“something new,” e.g., or “something that moves them”) and offers advice for handling an interview, including preparation, focus, and communication style: “Don’t assume any level of knowledge. In most cases reporters know less than you think they do.” (Also sounds about right to me.)
The final piece of advice is to “avoid scientific jargon.” The memo lists words that “mean one thing to scientists and something else entirely to the public and reporters. To lower the risk of being misunderstood, avoid them. Ask a media expert for alternatives.”
What are these tricky scientific terms? Here’s the list:
Quite a significant commitment to avoid negative feedback or trends. Risky? Too much uncertainty to say. My bias: date an exotic model.