Katherine Hayhoe: The challenges of communicating #climate #science in a politically polarized environment @KHayhoe #ActOnClimate #RiseForClimate

Yesterday afternoon Dr. Katharine Hayhoe gave a presentation about communication as one of CIRES Distiguished Lecturer Series. It was a real treat for me since I had never had the opportunity to see her in person and she is one of my heroes in the climate change world.

She is one of Coyote Gulch’s favorite climate science communicators. Her series with PBS, Global Weirding, takes on the myths and arguments against the reality of climate change in a clear and understandable way.

I’m in the water business and we are very worried about the fact that stationarity is dead. Stationarity can be characterized by the statement, “The past predicts the future,” but when the water cycle is changing due to global warming there is uncertainty about using historical hydrological data to predict future streamflow. We’re seeing the effects of higher temperatures on snowpack and runoff here in the West.

Dr. Hayhoe explained stationarity in one Global Weirding episode in this way [Paraphrasing]:

She lives in west Texas where there is a lot of flat land and open spaces. It’s possible to drive down the highway and steer your car by keeping the road in view by looking in your rear view mirror. Problems arise when the road has a turn in it. You are likely to crash if you haven’t been looking ahead of you.

She detailed some of the experiences that helped shape her approach to climate education, from the very first lecture, full of charts and graphs and detail, when, at the end, she called on a questioner, and he said, “Are you a Democrat?” She learned from subsequent speaking engagements that it was very hard or impossible to connect with a majority of folks by presenting the data. She also showed a series of slides that tracked climate change views by political affiliation which clearly illustrated the divide in the U.S. in 2018.

Dr. Hayhoe is an accomplished speaker telling stories and using humor to make a point.

The first step in communicating, she says, is to create a bond with the audience.

Below is her communication template.

Thanks CIRES and Dr. Hayhoe for a great presentation. Note to Hayhoe: I left feeling inspired.

Tomorrow is Rise for Climate with events all over the world. Acting on climate is essential as is voting for the environment.

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