August 16, 2013 by Dr. G
[NOTE – If you are coming here for the first time from a #ScioClimate tweet, please take a quick moment to review the About page to learn why students are my target population for this blog (not that adults won’t enjoy reading my posts!). You can also read my summaries from ScienceOnline Climate Day 1 morning and afternoon.]
Day 1 of ScienceOnline Climate certainly was an action-packed day, filled with exciting conversations and exchanges of ideas. How was today going to top all that yesterday had to offer? – with the most dynamic and spirited plenary session I have ever seen open a conference! After Karyn Traphagen welcomed us back for Day 2 in a stunning dress made from MODIS images of Arctic ice melting demonstrating connections that can be made between data and fashion (check out slowfactory for more clothing), picture if you will the following three speakers sitting on a stage in front of you: Dan Kahan (Yale University Law School), Michael Mann (climate scientist at Penn State University), and Tom Armstrong (US Global Change Research Program). Led by the masterful moderator Liz Neeley, these three speakers gave short presentations followed by a very rich discussion around the theme of “Credibility, Trust, Goodwill, and Persuasion.”
The panel was filmed and can be viewed online at: http://scienceonline.com/live/?id=80
So if you have not watched the video, here are the highlights… Dan Kahan presented empirical data showing that members of the public do trust scientists, but that members of culturally opposing groups distrust each other when they perceive their status is at risk (whoa – news to me). Michael Mann noted that the battle going on is not over climate science, but over policy, and that disinformation campaigns cause confusion for everyone involved. Tom Armstrong came right out and said that he needs our help! Tom summarized his work along the lines of “understand, assess, predict, and respond.” He said we have the foundational science, but we need to think of impacts and effects – what those are today, and what they might be tomorrow. He was clear that the rate limiting factor to the success of an action is communication and educational awareness, as well as linkages to the impacts and effects (makes perfect sense to me).
Tom’s comments reminded me of a story I just saw last evening on the DC local news about a massive fish kill in the reflecting pond in The Mall around the national monuments. DC has had some particularly “chilly” mornings and low humidity days for the past several days. Did this abrupt change in weather cause some sort of algal bloom that killed off the fish? Here is a great example to tie yesterday’s and today’s messages – a local weather story that people can relate to (especially for the people that walked around the reflecting pond yesterday and smelled the nasty dead fish smell!). See: Hundreds of Dead Fish Found in Pond at National Mall.
Anyway, there are some great resources I want to make sure I look up – an article in The Guardian titled Climate Scientists Must Not Advocate Particular Policies, Global Warming’s Six America’s report, The White House Climate Action Plan (and PDF file), and the National Climate Assessment. And for my plenary takeaways: (1) scientists cannot be excluded from policy discussions; (2) scientists are a trusted messenger but we are losing out on an opportunity when we (scientists) do not speak up and speak out; (3) people in communities will listen to their local person first, the person that “has skin in the game,” before listening to someone at the national level with the same information/data; and (4) we do not have an information deficit, but a misinformation surplus. The tools we use to address these are not the same, and we need to make sure the right message we send gets to the right audience.
There was only time for one additional morning session. But before I continue on, I should step back and explain that the conference was broken in to seven different tracks that attendees could select from. I had the flexibility to attend all the talks on one track or “mix and match” during my conference experience. The conference tracks are: preaching outside your choir; power, scale & community; social media – best practices; the arts and play; looking ahead; and, workshops. I stayed away from the sessions where I felt comfortable with the material such as the Social Media 101 workshop, and I branched out to attend sessions out of my comfort zone, such as yesterday’s Can Art Provide A Deeper Understanding Of Climate Change? As with any conference, many sessions were offered at the same time, so I was not able to attend all of the sessions I was interested in. But with a conference so active on social media, I look forward to catching snippets from those sessions in 140 characters or less from the multiple tweets being posted.
So my last morning session was titled The Role of Online Communication and the Sharing Economy in Climate-Resilient Communities. Unfortunately, this session was not as helpful as I hoped it would be. This is one of the “dangers” of the unconference format, assuming everyone has something to bring to the table. In this case, everyone in the room was looking for something from the session. The part of the discussion I found most interesting was from a question someone posed at the beginning – is there power in a hashtag to make a difference? This led to examples of hashtags and their uses, but can/do they create community, and then follow-up action? They are great for events (such as conferences!), but then they are only temporary in their purpose and existence. However, examples were given where hashtags allow for connections to be made in social media and can even create relationships that might start online and then become established as face-to-face.
Phew! Morning complete, but the afternoon is still to come! Stay tuned for my post for the afternoon of Day 2 at ScienceOnline Climate.