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Help Wanted: Communicating Climate Science Via Video

Many people have wrestled with how best to convey the latest scientific research on climate change. Here’s your chance to help us figure out the answer.

Last summer I was selected as a Google Science Communication Fellow and had the opportunity to explore this topic. Now, we are launching a pilot project that aims to assess whether video can be a compelling way for a climate scientist to describe his/her recent findings – and, if so, which type of video works best. For this project, funded by Google.org, I worked with three scientists (who were also Google Fellows with me) - Andy Dessler, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University; Brian Helmuth, Professor of Biological Sciences at University of South Carolina; and Paul Higgins, Associate Director of the American Meteorological Society’s Policy Program - to develop a series of videos on their recent findings. Dessler, Helmuth and Higgins each chose a paper that was either in production or recently published as the subject of the video.

Now, we need your help

We want to assess which video format works best. Please take a few minutes to vote for your favorite and tell us why you think it works well. Your votes will help us identify which method is most effective and will inform the future development of this project. We’ll be collecting responses through the end of May.

We produced three videos, each using a different format, for each of the scientist’s papers:

  • A Webcam Talk: For the first video, Dessler, Helmuth and Higgins filmed their own videos. WRI sent a computer with video recording abilities as well as some guidelines regarding content and length.

  • A Conversation: The second video is comprised of a slideshow of relevant images with a voiceover of the scientist discussing his finding. For this video, WRI sent a recording device to Dessler, Helmuth and Higgins. We then interviewed them over the phone and used these recordings as the basis of the voiceover. The audio was then paired with images that matched in content.

  • A Whiteboard Talk: Lastly, Dessler, Helmuth and Higgins each came into WRI’s offices and we filmed a whiteboard talk of them describing their findings.

Watch and vote on WRI's climate science videos now.

Ultimately, we hope to improve the way scientists communicate their peer-reviewed research to other scientists and the broader public, including media and decision makers.

As Higgins said to me, “Climate science helps us understand the causes, consequences and potential solutions to climate change. But so far the scientific community's massive progress appears to have little impact on public understanding of climate science, its implications, or society's options for dealing with it.”

Dessler further noted, “The scientific community needs to do a better job communicating our scientific findings to the general public. I hope efforts like this one will help develop the tools that allow us to disseminate scientific results effectively.”

Climate science has already demonstrated that the world is warming due to greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, and the evidence base for this is increasing. Of note is the recent IPCC report which tightened much of the evidence between extreme events and climate change.

The scientific community has greatly advanced our understanding of the impacts of a changing climate. But, as Helmuth told me, “I think if people truly understood the magnitude of what we as scientists see coming down the pipeline they would be prompted to pay closer attention to how their lives are likely to change in the not too distant future.”

Let’s ensure that these discoveries are reaching the public— as better understanding is the key to developing an effective response to this global challenge.

Watch and vote on WRI's climate science videos now.

I'd like to express my gratitude to Dave Cooper, WRI's Video Production and Design Manager, who supervised the production of these videos.

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