On October 16, 2020, the Round Table “Promoting Knowledge about Climate: How to Educate the Population about the Climate Crisis in the Face of Uncertainty of Projections and Deferred Risks?” was held in Moscow. The event was organized by the Development and Environment Foundation with the support of the SPERARE Project together with a partner - the Association of Communicators in Education and Science (AKSON). The Round Table was held online in the framework of the IV Russian Science Communication Forum.
The moderator of the round table, Alexander Chernokulsky (PhD, Senior Researcher at the A.M. Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), and Scientific Secretary of the RAS Scientific Council on Earth Climate Problems) formulated the main problems in the field of popularizing knowledge about climate. In particular, he highlighted the following problems:
• Perception problem: how does the population perceive global and deferred risks?
• The problem of an expert and desynchronization: can a physicist talk about economic measures, and an economist, about the causes of climate change, and is their knowledge in related fields lagging behind reality?
• Presentation problem: where is the fine line between realism and alarmism?
• The scalability problem: how to talk about climate change for a large audience?
• The futility problem: can we do something?
Timofey Nestik (Doctor of Psychology, Head of the Laboratory of the Institute of Psychology of the Russian Academy of Sciences) devoted his report to the problem of perception and noted the main features of the population’s perception of global and time-delayed risks. Also, he provided some useful tips for communicators on how to inform the public about the threat of climate change. In particular, he noted that it is more effective to talk about global risks without alarmism and catastrophization, to give more examples and fewer numbers, to convince that measures actually work, to link measures to overcome global risks with cultural values and self-esteem of skeptics. It is also necessary to emphasize the unanimity among experts, explain how false reports and conspiracy theories are “arranged”, give the floor to people who are perceived as “ours”, convince that this is the point of view of the majority, and more and more people support it.
Olga Dobrovidova (Senior Copywriter of the Skoltech Press Service, Associate Professor of ITMO, Acting President of AKSON) has been working on the climate agenda for a long time and, as a journalist, talked about such an aspect of communication as the role of an expert and the importance of his area of expertise. In particular, Olga noted the conflict between memes “I’m not a scientist” and “the science is settled” observed in the public space, noted the impossibility of universal expertise and the problem of popularizing the topic of climate change, pointed out the need for “climate literacy” of journalists and experts, and also mandatory mutual trust among experts. Olga also analyzed the landscape of the modern field of scientific communicators in the field of climate change, highlighting climate journalists, leading weather forecasts, noting new media, science museums, etc.
Angelina Davydova (environmental journalist, Editor-in-Chief “Ekologiya i Pravo” (“Environment and Rights”), Director, Bureau of Environmental Information, observer at the UN Climate Change negotiations) has been writing about climate as a journalist for over 10 years. In her report, Angelina talked about the problem of presenting material and the role of alarmism and realism. Angelina emphasized the importance of relying on scientific data, noted the importance of goal-setting: is the communicator pursuing the goal of frightening society, or informing it and giving possible “recipes” for a disaster? Angelina also highlighted the so-called “decision journalism” - an approach to coverage of a problem, which also assumes the presence of ways to solve the problem. It is important for communicators to convey to society the idea not only “who is to blame?”, but also “what is to be done?”
Andrey Skvortsov (General Director, Mercator Studio, and weather presenter on NTV Channel) spoke about such an important problem as the problem of scalability and discussed the role of leading weather forecasts in informing society about climate change. Andrey asked the question “how much to simplify everything?” and gave some useful tips on how to more interestingly and more accurately convey information about climate change to the listener / viewer. For example, he suggested supplementing dry statistics with vivid examples, suggested visualizing statistics whenever possible (the clearer the graphics, the stronger the effect can be), use metaphors if they allow explaining the physics and the reasons for the process (but not using metaphors for the sake of metaphors). When choosing experts, Andrey, arguing in terms of the standards of the American court, proposes to operate with the new Daubert standard, according to which an expert must help to understand the case, his testimony is based on a sufficient amount of data, and his opinion is born on reliable and understandable principles and methods.
Alexander Ginzburg (Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Head of the Laboratory at the A.M. Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, General Director of the Development and Environment Foundation) in his report touched upon the problem of “futility”, showed how climatologists helped for Détente between two nuclear powers. Using the example of the research of physicists and climatologists in the field of the consequences of a nuclear war (the so-called “Nuclear Winter”), Alexander demonstrated that the actions of individuals in the field of the global climate are by no means in vain. In addition, the report sounded a call to use the catch phrases of famous Russian climatologists, which will allow them to be transferred from the field of faceless experts to the field of specific living people. However, Alexander noted, one of the phrases “growing nervousness of the climate”, said by Academician Obukhov, went to the media for a long time. He also showed that poets often refer to climatic events in their poems, citing the poems of Byron and Voznesensky as an example. The presentation ended with a slide with information about the SPERARE Project.