Wild Weather, Climate Change, and Media: Communicating Science, Uncertainty, and Impact

Saturday, February 16, 2013: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room 204 (Hynes Convention Center)
Flooding in Australia closes coalmines in Queensland. Inner-city heat waves strike Birmingham, United Kingdom. Spicewood Beach, Texas, trucks in drinking water when severe drought strikes. Surveys show that the American public increasingly believes that human-induced climate change is at least partly to blame for the recent spate of severe weather disasters. But what does the latest climate science say? The degree to which any given disaster is due to climate change is problematic. However, a retrospective study of the deadly 2003 European heat wave concluded that anthropogenic climate change significantly increased the odds of it occurring. A recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change comprehensive report concluded that manmade climate change contributes in varying degrees to changing global weather patterns, including increased likelihood in the 21st century of more severe or frequent extreme events such as heat waves and heavy rain. This change in turn could affect agriculture, energy, water, public health, tourism, and transportation. Better understanding of the risks as well as better climate adaptation planning could help minimize the impact. The barrage of media coverage of wild weather illustrates how important -- and challenging -- it is for scientists and journalists alike to communicate the complex relationship between weather patterns and global climate change. This symposium will examine the scientific evidence and offer strategies for improving communication to the public.
Cristine Russell, Harvard Kennedy School
James McCarthy, Harvard University
Cristine Russell, Harvard Kennedy School
James McCarthy, Harvard University
Chris Field, Carnegie Institution for Science and Stanford University
Weather Extremes: Coping with the Changing Risks
Seth Borenstein, Associated Press
When Weather Goes Wild, So Does the Media
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