“framing” the debate, yet again
So, here’s another example of the logos/pathos (or statistics/example, or abstract/concrete) problem for climate change communication I was talking about yesterday. A communication consultant advises:
A better setting for talking about climate science is a real time impact of climate change, be it a record heat wave or record heavy rains followed by heavy flooding. There is no denying what your eyes can see. Last fall’s record setting flood in Atlanta was a textbook example of the kind of impact that should be highlighted. Only months earlier, NOAA had released a consensus science report documenting the trend of increased heavy precipitation during the fall months in the southeastern United States. NOAA identified climate change as driving the trend and predicted more of the same for the future.
Some have argued that focusing on current weather can be tricky. However, advocates were forced to do just that when opponents focused on the recent snowstorms as “proof” that global warming was oversold. Advocates were successful in pushing back on climate change deniers in that instance, and the same effort should be applied to upcoming heat waves, droughts and flooding, events that fit the pattern of increasing extreme events that scientists have clearly documented and predicted will only increase as the impacts of climate change intensify.
Which is it? Is an extreme weather event supposed to be presented as an “impact” caused by climate change? Or does it just “fit the pattern” (i.e., is consistent with) what scientists have predicted?
I’m not sure what the “success” advocates achieved explaining the recent cold weather. Was it success in arguing that any particular weather event we experience gives us no basis for inferring the general state of the climate? If so, that’s a success that AGW-skeptics will also achieve, if advocates keep insisting that a hot summer demonstrates global warming.