Why is communicating climate change science hard?

Why is science communication hard? Why don’t people blindly accept what scientists tell them? In a time when 97% of climate scientists agree about human-caused climate change[1], why do some people still think that a single cold winter disproves global warming? Is it because scientists are stuffy academics, tight in their ivory tower? Because scientists aren’t very good at disseminating and knowledge and communicating information? Or because information is not available in an accessible, engaging format, with key data in pay-walled publications?


Scientific consensus, public scepticism

Science communication has a long history[2], and the British Association for the Advancement of Science was established way back in 1831. Yet today, despite an abundance of scientific information being readily available, climate change remains a confusing subject for many[3]. While it appears that, in Britain, a majority of people believe in the existence of climate change, scepticism about the causes and seriousness or impacts is common[4]. Likewise in America, a survey in May 2011 showed that 64% of Americans thought the world was warming, but only 47% believed that any global warming was mostly caused by human activities[5]. In the UK and in the USA, the proportion of the public and policy makers who reject climate science and the idea that humans are causing climate change has grown[6, 7]. Worldwide, the strong scientific consensus on climate change[1] is not recognised by a large part of the general public[6, 7]. More positively, recent research has suggested that awareness and self-reported knowledge of climate change has increased over the last two decades, and a large proportion of the public consider climate change to be a pressing environmental threat[4].


Why don’t some people believe in, or care about, climate change?

The short answer is that people are complicated. Their beliefs and judgements can be clouded by their religious upbringing, political leaning, their ideologies and self-interests, what news channels they watch and what newspapers they read. Together, these factors all contribute to differences in opinion and social conflicts over science[8]. Below I’ll summarise a few of the key things that influence how people make decisions and judgements on scientific topics.

Cognitive biases

People are affected by their own cognitive biases, things such as the Bandwagon Effect (the tendency to believe things because other people believe them), or Confirmation Bias (where people search for, interpret, focus on and remember information in a way that confirms their own preconceptions)[9]. People can be very good at ignoring or reinterpreting information based on partisanship or self-interest[10]. People are also good at developing attitudes that justify their behaviour and identity[7]. It’s easy to only read things that support your way of thinking; for example, on Twitter, political conversations take the form of separate, polarised crowds[11]. People reply, retweet and interact with people who think like them.

Fragmented news

News coverage is fragmented with abundant choice and it is often biased along political lines with numerous ideological commentaries to choose from[12, 13], making it easy to ignore science journalism that is adverse to your political beliefs[10]. As a result of the increasingly fragmented media, press releases about science and climate change may reach even fewer people than they did a decade ago[10]. It’s easy to choose to only read or watch news that reinforces your beliefs about a particular scientific topic.

In addition, because the norm for journalism is to provide balance and dramatisation[7], the media frequently portray climate science as a debate, an uncertain controversy, with two equally credible sides[6, 14]; More conservative stations like Fox News are more likely to present a wide range of climate doubters[13]. It’s easy to see why people can find it confusing.

Political beliefs

In the case of climate change, these biases have resulted in two polarised opinions, divided on ideological lines. Whitmarsh (2011) found that climate change scepticism was far more likely to be influenced by a person’s environmental and political values, than by education or knowledge[7]. Poortinga and colleagues found that climate scepticism was particularly prevalent among older individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds with conservative politics and traditional values[4]. Indeed, whether or not you believe in climate change is, in America, increasingly part of what it means to be Republican or Democrat[10, 15].

A complex, invisible issue

Climate change is difficult to understand. It’s a complex issue researched by thousands of scientists, each with a different specialism; even scientists don’t always understand it. People are likely to disregard information they regard as too scientific or complex[6]. Climate change is also difficult to see and it hasn’t got many immediate, discernible impacts[4]; scientists are reluctant to attribute a single flood or other catastrophic event to climate change. No single news item or image can be used to catalyse action[10]. Because climate change is intangible and abstract, it is difficult for people to engage with the topic and to not feel uncertain about it[4]. Conversely, perceived personal experience of climate change (like your house flooding) tends to lead to increased belief certainty[16].

Untrustworthy scientists

Trust in scientists as a source of information on global warming has dropped in recent years[17], particularly among conservative politics[12]. “Climategate”, the release of emails from University of East Anglia, had a significant effect on public trust in scientists[17]. This is important, as people rely heavily on trust to make sense of conflicting information[12].

Sowing doubt

There is also a well-funded campaign that seeks to spread disinformation about climate science[6], motivated by economic, financial and ideological ideas. Some fear limitations to the free market or short-term profits. This campaign, with its public-relations superstars, has been very successful at convincing parts of the public.


Is a lack of understanding at the root of social conflict over science?

Science sufficiency, public deficiency

If scientific information is more readily accessible than ever before, why do conflicts over controversial scientific issues persist? The belief that the simple conveyance of information from scientists to the public would solve these conflicts is known as the “Knowledge Deficit Model”[18]. It can be summarised as:

“If you knew what I know, you’d believe what I believe.”

This view, that a lack of information and knowledge is at the root of social conflict over science[8], led to science media being used to educate the population about the detail of controversial issues. The idea was that, once citizens were up to speed, they would judge the issue as the scientists did[8]. End of controversy.

The decades-old Knowledge Deficit Model was seen as a transmission of information, where the facts would speak for themselves and everyone would interpret them in the same way. It assumed “public deficiency, science sufficiency”, and it adopted a one-way, top-down communication process[3]. Scientific information flowed from “pure” sources of information in the lab to a variety suitable for mass-media consumption. The scientific community was very much in control of the information flow.

Why doesn’t it work?

In fact, as we can see from the points above, this approach is unlikely to ever be successful. Blaming science controversy on ‘public ignorance’ is likely to inflame the issue and alienate key audiences[8];  people who deny the evidence for climate change are often very well informed. Furthermore, simply blaming the public ignores the fact that, just perhaps, scientists aren’t all that good at communication. We know that knowledge is only one factor that shapes how individuals make judgements on scientific issues[19]. Ideology, politics, trust, social identity, religion can all have equally strong impacts[7, 19]. The knowledge deficit model also overlooks the fact that science information, given the wide array of content choices, is likely to only reach a small number of knowledgeable science enthusiasts[19].

The knowledge-deficit model of science communication persists[19-21], despite decades of research proving its ineffectiveness. To focus on science literacy as the cause and solution to failures in science communication is a major distraction[8]. In addition, arguing that the science speaks for itself within policy debate reduces scientific knowledge to just another resource that groups can use in political battles. This will inevitably lead to a contest over uncertainty, with hype or distortion of the expert agreement. Each time an exaggerated claim is shown to be false or inaccurate, it further alienates the distrustful crowd[10]. This can be seen in UK public policy; policy makers that have implemented policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions have downplayed scientific uncertainty about climate change[7].


From Science Communication towards Public Engagement

Understanding the audience

In order to be more successful at science communication, scientists need to have a better understanding of what factors might shape an individual’s beliefs and policy decisions. They must research and understand their audience (who is your target audience? Are they actually at your science event?) and listen to and connect with their audience on their terms[18]. Communicators need to understand what their audience needs, and to be able to evaluate and evolve in response to these needs.

Dialogue and engagement

Conversations ensure that issues have been understood[14]. The “Public Engagement” model therefore has deliberative contexts and dialogue at its core. Any event should be as interactive as possible. Stakeholders are encouraged to participate in a dialogue, informing research and science policy and priorities[19] with an emphasis on participation and feedback. Outreach in this format is a tangled web, with feedbacks between policy makers, scientists, stakeholders and journalists at all levels[22]. Dialogue should include more than just the scientific findings – it should provide insights into how these findings came about, which can enrich policy discussions.

Communication skills

Effective science communication is more than just audience research and dialogue. You must also be a good communicator. The public’s attention and imagination must be caught. Scientists must highlight the relevance of their work to the public; the “so what” question. People are busy, and they want to know why they should care[6]. What is at stake and why should it matter to a particular community?[10] Simple messages, well-crafted and often repeated, are very effective, especially as too much detail overwhelms people. Speaking and writing in plain language and using familiar numerical units is also essential. Metaphors, analogies and narrative, carefully tailored to a specific audience, bring dry science to life[10].  Everyone wants to know how large something is in comparison to the size of Wales!

Frames can be a highly effective tool for science communication. Frames are interpretive storylines, and they communicate why the issue is a problem, who is responsible and what should be done[10]. Conveying the context of our knowledge, with strong narrative, human interest and dramatic storylines, is likely to be more effective[23]. Graphics and photographs capture the imagination and maintain interest[24], as does humour[25].

As scientists, we have many exciting stories to tell. We do fieldwork, interesting labwork, meet passionate people at conferences, write original papers[26]. We should use personal narrative to highlight our research, explaining the how and why as well as the what. And we should tell people why they should care.


Summary and conclusions

Science communication is hard because we’re up against powerful forces. However, simply telling people about your science or making scientific findings available are unlikely to solve our social conflicts over science. Further, it is clear that the drive to make all published science articles publically accessible (“open access”), while commendable, is unlikely to, on its own, increase public understanding of science. Providing a large amount of information is not enough; people’s beliefs about climate change are far more easily determined by their politics, values, identity and lifestyle[7]. Alarmism and downplaying uncertainty are likely to backfire, alienating audiences and inflaming the issue.

However, if you ensure you know your audience and understand their needs, have the ability to evolve in response to these needs, and emphasise listening, understanding, dialogue, conversation and engagement, you are more likely to be successful. If you can communicate your science as a humorous narrative or tell a personal story, enriched with graphics, imagery, metaphors and allusions, you’ll be even more successful. Scientists have lots of interesting stories to tell. Let’s tell them.


Read some more of Bethan’s blogs on science communication on her Antarctic Glaciers website by following these links:

Are websites and blogs an effective tool for science communication

Setting up a science blog

Why I blog and why you should too



1. Cook, J., D. Nuccitelli, S.A. Green, M. Richardson, B. Winkler, R. Painting, R. Way, P. Jacobs, and A. Skuce, 2013. Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature. Environmental Research Letters, 8(2): 024024.

2. Baron, J.H., 2003. What should the citizen know about ‘science’? Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 96(10): 509-511.

3. Miller, S., 2001. Public understanding of science at the crossroads. Public Understanding of Science, 10(1): 115-120.

4. Poortinga, W., A. Spence, L. Whitmarsh, S. Capstick, and N.F. Pidgeon, 2011. Uncertain climate: An investigation into public scepticism about anthropogenic climate change. Global Environmental Change, 21(3): 1015-1024.

5. Leiserowitz, A., E. Maibach, C. Roser-Renouf, and N. Smith, 2011. Climate change in the American mind: Americans’ global warming beliefs and attitudes in May 2011. Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

6. Somerville, R.C.J. and S.J. Hassol, 2011. Communicating the science of climate change. Physics Today, October: 48-63.

7. Whitmarsh, L., 2011. Scepticism and uncertainty about climate change: Dimensions, determinants and change over time. Global Environmental Change, 21(2): 690-700.

8. Nisbet, M.C. and D.A. Scheufele, 2009. What’s next for science communication? Promising directions and lingering distractions. American Journal of Botany, 96(10): 1767-1778.

9. Oswald, M.E. and S. Grosjean, Confirmation Bias, in Cognitive illusions: A handbook on fallacies and biases in thinking, judgement and memory, R. Pohl, Editor. 2004, Psychology Press: Hove, UK. 79-96.

10. Nisbet, M.C., 2009. Communicating Climate Change: Why Frames Matter for Public Engagement. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 51(2): 12-23.

11. Smith, M.A., L. Rainie, I. Himelboin, and B. Schneiderman, Mapping Twitter topic networks: from polarised crowds to community clusters. 2014, Pew Research Centre: http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/02/20/mapping-twitter-topic-networks-from-polarized-crowds-to-community-clusters. p. 57 pp.

12. Hmielowski, J.D., L. Feldman, T.A. Myers, A. Leiserowitz, and E. Maibach, 2013. An attack on science? Media use, trust in scientists, and perceptions of global warming. Public Understanding of Science: 0963662513480091.

13. Feldman, L., E.W. Maibach, C. Roser-Renouf, and A. Leiserowitz, 2012. Climate on Cable: The Nature and Impact of Global Warming Coverage on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 17(1): 3-31.

14. Kellstedt, P.M., S. Zahran, and A. Vedlitz, 2008. Personal Efficacy, the Information Environment, and Attitudes Toward Global Warming and Climate Change in the United States. Risk Analysis, 28(1): 113-126.

15. Dunlap, R.E. and A.M. McCright, 2008. A widening gap: Republican and Democratic views on climate change. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 50(5): 26-35.

16. Myers, T.A., E.W. Maibach, C. Roser-Renouf, K. Akerlof, and A.A. Leiserowitz, 2013. The relationship between personal experience and belief in the reality of global warming. Nature Clim. Change, 3(4): 343-347.

17. Leiserowitz, A.A., E.W. Maibach, C. Roser-Renouf, N. Smith, and E. Dawson, 2013. Climategate, public opinion, and the loss of trust. American behavioral scientist, 57(6): 818-837.

18. Smith, B., N. Baron, C. English, H. Galindo, E. Goldman, K. McLeod, M. Miner, and E. Neeley, 2013. COMPASS: Navigating the Rules of Scientific Engagement. PLoS Biol, 11(4): e1001552.

19. Bubela, T., M.C. Nisbet, R. Borchelt, F. Brunger, C. Critchley, E. Einsiedel, G. Geller, A. Gupta, J. Hampel, R. Hyde-Lay, E.W. Jandciu, S.A. Jones, P. Kolopack, S. Lane, T. Lougheed, B. Nerlich, U. Ogbogu, K. O’Riordan, C. Ouellette, M. Spear, S. Strauss, T. Thavaratnam, L. Willemse, and T. Caulfield, 2009. Science communication reconsidered. Nat Biotech, 27(6): 514-518.

20. Frewer, L., S. Hunt, M. Brennan, S. Kuznesof, M. Ness, and C. Ritson, 2003. The views of scientific experts on how the public conceptualize uncertainty. Journal of Risk Research, 6(1): 75-85.

21. Besley, J.C. and A.H. Tanner, 2011. What Science Communication Scholars Think About Training Scientists to Communicate. Science Communication, 33(2): 239-263.

22. Oppenheimer, M., 2011. What Roles Can Scientists Play in Public Discourse? Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union, 92(16): 133-134.

23. Stewart, I.S. and T. Nield, 2013. Earth stories: context and narrative in the communication of popular geoscience. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, 124(4): 699-712.

24. Miller, J.D., Reaching the attentive and interested publics for science, in Scientists and journalists: reporting science as news, S.M. Friedman, S. Dunwoody, and C.L. Rogers, Editors. 1986, Free Press: New York. 55-69.

25. Tatalovic, M., 2009. Science comics as tools for science communication: a brief, exploratory study. Journal of Science Communication, 8(4): 1-17.

26. Davies, B.J. and N.F. Glasser, 2014. Analysis of www.AntarcticGlaciers.org as a tool for online science communication. Correspondence paper. Journal of Glaciology, 60(220): 1-8.

26 responses to “Why is communicating climate change science hard?

  1. Bethan,

    A good discussion but I think it would be good to place much more emphasis on the effects of the “powerful forces” you mention, the vested, powerful and wealthy interests that often drive media and political resistance to evidence that is against *their* values. Rather than concentrating more on communicating with the public I would recommend paying a good deal more attention to media failure in covering science and policy failure in avoiding the evidence.

    At no time was this failure more apparent then in the disastrous media failure over “climategate” an event that exemplified the business-as-usual preference of much media and also the inability of many journalists to realise that they were being played. This is a story that remains largely untold yet it is like having had a Watergate happen without a Woodward and Bernstein to point out that the problems were entirely on the side of the BAU reasoning of mainstream media that was so easily motivated to accept nonsense as fact.

    Science works to refine the range within which known reality lies. There may be uncertainty with that range but there is a high degree of certainty that reality does *not* lie outside that range. Too much of the time the argument against the Deficit Model idea seems to be accepted by scientists to the extent that they enter into false debates with people who want to talk out of range. We should spend more time identifying out of range discussion and calling it out for what it is.

    One last point. A great deal of climate bullshitting (in the Harry Frankfurt sense) argues in a very similar way to how you have discussed the Deficit Model’s problems and it is practiced by canny operators who want to mediate the evidence and data themselves filtering it through a mesh of their own values. For example self-declaring their “honesty” and their right to “broker” information, which can easily mean leaving out evidence that does not coincide with beliefs.

    In dissing the Deficit Model there is a danger that the information baby gets thrown out with the dirtied bathwater. We need to focus as well on who is muddying the water. Having good communication skills with a better understanding of public values is important but scientists and experts also need to be hard nosed in calling out bullshit in media and policy. Though it requires toughness it is vitally necessary that our experts continue to do this for the present and future well being of our society. Ever more so it seems.

    • Dear Climato,
      Thank you for your comments, which are thoughtful and interesting. I agree that public debates with denialists are useful – but we should not also forget the large number of people who are simply confused and require clarification.

      I believe we are seeing some improvement in the way in which some aspects of the media handle climate change (eg, the BBC), but there is still a long way to go. Particularly due to the political bias of many news outlets.

      Making large amounts of information publicly accessible is clearly advantageous and we should strive to deliver clear messages. However, this alone is not enough – we need to engage with our audiences, and to understand their needs and backgrounds. Engaging with a largely sceptical and denialist audience is clearly a different task to engaging with school children and interested adults for example.

      Achieving a better public understanding of climate change will take time and much effort from the scientific community. There are many strands to this effort; as a community, different people have different strengths and can engage with different sectors according to these.

      Best wishes,

      • i was a mildly interested adult 5 years ago,…

        but now it would seem that I would be a ‘sceptic’ or a ‘denialist’ – I’m a member of the public 1st and denialist – is really offensive, not for what they are compared to, but a phrase that come overs as activist politicized rhetoric, to shut down the opposition.

        are you aware of politicians using this terminology, is it wise for a scientist to do the same?..

        In context of, I’m thinking Gordon Brown talking about flat earthers and deniers, Ed Milliband saying ‘climate sabatouers, Ed Davey – just very recently attacking ‘deniers’ and the Green party leader calling for ministers and advisors (no matter what the give advice on ) to be checked for their climate views and ousted if not on message?

        Chris Huhne – Nuremburg trials comment for climate sceptics comment not very helpful either and numerous commentators saying deniers or denialist are en par (moral equivalent of) with holocaust deniers, (or what ever else derogatory comparison they can think of, flat-earther, crank, conspiracy theorist, mad bad, crazy or evilly motivated) and as for well funded denial machine, that is just a conspiracy theory.

  2. Do you really believe what you have written here?
    Do you ever question what you are told or read in the literature?
    Can you not see the inconsistencies in your own arguments?

    • As scientists, we are trained to be critical. However, we accept the overwhelming consensus and evidence about climate change, which is published in robust, peer-reviewed journals.

    • Paul,
      Do you actually know how to communicate pleasantly?
      Do you really think that asking the questions you’ve asked in the way you have is going to lead to a constructive discussion?
      Do you understand the meanings of the terms “irony”, “hypocrisy”, and “self-awareness”?

  3. I do entirely agree that we have to understand the values and motivations of the audience, as for example in Yale’s “Six Americas” findings.

    However, you misunderstand me if you think that I am saying we should be engaging more with “a largely sceptical and denialist audience”. No, I’m saying we should engage far less with these people as individuals, as they are largely unreachable, and instead we should be understanding and engaging far more deeply with social science, economics, policy making, civil society and, especially, media and journalist *organisations* to point out that they are behaving unprofessionally in not being up to speed on the far more difficult and more clearly understood climate reality that we now understand far better (requiring ever increasing levels of change from biz as usual). Currently, understanding in these professions frequently seems to be at a level that is ten years behind at best but also very often out of range altogether in denialist or ‘do nothing’ territory.

    These are key influential audiences that require a great deal more public and private attention from science communicators so that the wider public can then get a far clearer message from a far larger number and range of communicators. The trouble is that a temperature-related carbon budget provides an unwelcome constraint not just on carbon emissions but also an unwonted limit on the standard rhetoric within these professions.

    In journalism, for example, guidelines often say that current affairs broadcasts need to be ‘objective and impartial’ yet also that they have to be ‘fair to all interests concerned’. They do not state that these two requirements are deeply in conflict if the objective scientific data clearly shows that physical reality is very ‘unfair’ to the values and beliefs of a part of the audience, which in the case of all of the fossil fuel using audience is all of us. The facts relating to evolution, cigarette smoking, vaccination and death itself may be as similarly ‘unfair’ to various or even all interests, but there we are. Climate system findings provide the same challenge. Too bad.

    After about the most objective and impartial evidence assessment of anything, ever, IPCC AR5 states “Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.”

    I think the Deficit Model remains entirely valid until, at the very least, every journalist and every professional in every field and every government department everywhere appreciates the deeply ‘unfair’ implications of this objective and impartial finding. And also they need to take in the fact that the climate system just doesn’t care about the resultant ‘unfairness’ to beliefs and values.

    Paul Price @swimsure

  4. Reblogged this on And Then There's Physics and commented:
    This is quite an interesting, and detailed, post about science communication, focusing mainly on climate science. It makes some interesting points about the difficulties in communicating this complex and contentious topic. Probably understandably, it doesn’t really provide any clear answers as to how to communicate this topic more effectively, but I do agree with the message in the last paragraph – using humour, being more personable, and using clear and effective imagery will certainly help.

  5. ref the ‘97% consensus’..

    what is the object of the consensus?

    John Cook (the Consensus project,leaked SkS forum)
    “Okay, so we’ve ruled out a definition of AGW being “any amount of human influence” or “more than 50% human influence”. We’re basically going with Ari’s p0rno approach (I probably should stop calling it that 🙂 which is AGW = “humans are causing global warming”. Eg – no specific quantification which is the only way we can do it considering the breadth of papers we’re surveying.” – John Cook

    so that consensus, is agw =true, but no-quantification,
    this would apture allmost every sceptic’s (or lukewarmer’s) thinking about AGW. (ie yes, co2 is a greenhouse gas, but how much warming likley)

    yet the ‘97% consensus’ is used like a club to say ‘scientists say’ to shut people down..

    My thoughts on Doran/Anderegg (ebing misused, in a similar way)

  6. This is a great post. One of the largest obstacles in enacting policy (and public desire for said policy) is effectively communicating a simplified explanation of climate change and its impacts. You touched on many of the key factors. The biggest issue lies between scientists ineffectively communicating climate change to a non technical audience and public apathy. When you don’t effectively illustrate your point you allow for other interests groups to fill that gap. The impacts of climate change are only beginning to become tangible and if the predictions are accurate, people will become more and more receptive. Though it is frustrating, it is almost to be expected as scientific doubt has occurred with the vast majority of “new” science.

  7. “Why is communicating climate change science hard?”

    After the survey of 5000 online participants of the climate debate of whom 98% were sceptical of catastrophic global warming, I think I’m probably the best placed person globally to answer that question. However, unless or until the government are prepared to fund the full analysis I will not be in a position to say more.

  8. Why is science communication hard? Well, if your third sentence and first fact are demonstrable nonsense, you should not be surprised that people do not “blindly accept” whatever you say (or indeed want to read on).

    Nor should you in fact strive for blind acceptance. Enlightenment and all that.

    • Richard,
      Firstly, as commented upon by Jsam above, the strong scientific consensus has been replicated many times. But that’s not really the object of the discussion here.

      Secondly, I think you’ll find that I do not suggest that people *should* blindly accept scientists’ findings. I only ask why they don’t, and then go on to outline the many reasons why. That’s a subtle but important distinction.

  9. There is also a well-funded campaign that seeks to spread disinformation about climate science[6], motivated by economic, financial and ideological ideas. Some fear limitations to the free market or short-term profits. This campaign, with its public-relations superstars, has been very successful at convincing parts of the public.

    Could you please point to any examples of the “public-relations superstars”? And please could you associate an example of disinformation coming from each with its associated proof of underlying motive for lying about the truth?

    I hope I am correct in assuming from the description “superstar” that you have in mind individuals who are known at a fairly public level and not just constructs found in academia or the climate blogosphere?

    • This reply is entirely wasted on a denier with tlitb1’s form but, for those watching, just for starters Dick Cheney, Donald Trump, George Will, Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart, Nigel Lawson, etc., etc. etc. It’s a very long list.

      • @Steve Bloom

        This reply is entirely wasted on a denier with tlitb1′s form but, for those watching, just for starters Dick Cheney, Donald Trump, George Will, Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart, Nigel Lawson, etc., etc. etc. It’s a very long list.

        Thanks for offering some names. I recognise some there from right wing media, politics and industry; and I don’t doubt you could add to a list like that for as long as you want. 😉

        However I would argue that wouldn’t be very illuminating as an answer to my question.

        I mean, surely you are not saying that all the people you list, who are from all around the world and from different industries, are all part of a single “well-funded campaign” that “seeks to spread disinformation about climate science” and “[t]his campaign, with its public-relations superstars, has been very successful at convincing parts of the public.”?

        If you are saying that I would love to see the evidence to support that, it would be very interesting – if not astonishing. However, until I know otherwise, I would argue that it seems more mundanely likely they all are just some people who, in their individual ways, happen to be critical of climate science or policy, and have some privileged position in the public eye to declare their position.

        Your answer seems to fall into the category of ‘constructs found in the climate blogosphere’. 😉

        I’m hoping for more tangible proof that there exists a campaign that has “superstars” who somehow persuade “parts of the public”

        Unless Bethan Davies was merely implying a truism about the “parts of the public” just being people who are already predispositioned to have the same views as the people you list? I really hoped there would be some better answer than that to fill the picture I had of the persuasive “superstar” category.

        Perhaps it was just hyperbole.

        I wasn’t expecting Noel Edmonds secretly working for SMERSH but … 😉

        BTW I am not sure how you have come to such a strong opinion about my “form”, and I certainly have no idea what makes you think me a “denier” of anything. If it isn’t too off topic for our host I would love to know how you have come to that conclusion.
        Please don’t let it be you’ve just seen some criticism of mine you didn’t like. Really show me “denying” Please! 😉

    • Tilitb1,
      We could perhaps, as examples, focus on the Heartland Institute or the GWPF, or the Lord Monckton Foundation. But again, this is off-topic and perhaps we could refocus on effective science communication?

      • Tilitb1,
        We could perhaps, as examples, focus on the Heartland Institute or the GWPF, or the Lord Monckton Foundation. But again, this is off-topic and perhaps we could refocus on effective science communication?

        Thanks for those names. In that case it would seem that the concept of superstar used here is pretty relative then. I’ve heard of Monckton but until now had never heard of the Lord Monckton Foundation. The Heartland Institute seem to only ever unerringly shoot themselves in the foot whenever they try an actively engage the wider public directly e.g. the Unabomber poster. I can’t imagine many people seeing these two as “superstar” persuaders myself.

        Of the three I could possibly see Lawson and the GWPF imposing themselves on their opposite numbers minds as “superstar” antagonists. However, accepting that, while there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth whenever a GWPF representative manages an appearance in the media, any further charge of being part of a organised misinformation campaign has yet to be substantiated. Unless you have some more information to furnish that accusation?

        Until then I don’t see how you can characterise the GWPF as being purveyors of deliberate climate misinformation. Although it does seem that having no evidence to substantiate claims like this is a common initial position among climate communicators. For example the recent GWPF report on sensitivity has apparently surprised several people by implicitly accepting projected anthropogenic warming and has subsequently invited debate from across the board in climate blogs etc. Are you saying this latest report is purely misinformation on the part of GWPF? Maybe some sort of trick? Should this engagement stop and any further output from them be ignored?

        I think if the practitioners of climate science communication start with a faulty assumption that their efforts can only be stymied by a coordinated counter communication effort, and then when asked to substantiate that assumption it turns out to be without foundation then I think this is *the* focus of the problems of “effective science communication” 😉

        From where I stand it seems that in fact climate science communication actually in large part depends upon demonising any and all opposite opinion as only being pathologically motivated, wrong, and not worthy of being seen. This is what I would call “constructs found in academia” 😉

        I accept that it is quite possible that climate science communicators themselves can’t actually see this dependency so I think it especially worth bringing it to their attention since unless they can accept the concept of debate in good faith I would say the practice of climate science communication will remain ineffective.

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