When scientists release their findings, we are often presented with scientific principles, numbers, and technical terminologies. In the case of climate change research, how do we turn these findings into actionable plans? How can these findings actually benefit the planet?
During the “Stakeholders’ Briefing: Latest IPCC Report on Impacts, Adaptation & Vulnerability,” Filipino scientists who were lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Working Group II (WG2) Sixth Annual Report (AR6) emphasized the role and importance of communication in climate change action.
Dr. Rodel D. Lasco, Dr. Juan M. Pulhin, and Dr. Rosa T. Perez believe that communication is crucial in terms of communicating the science and data provided by scientists to other stakeholders and at the same time, in driving inclusive and collective action.
Why Communication Matters
The Filipino IPCC authors acknowledge that there can be a gap between what the science tells us is happening and how we, as human beings, can act on it. This is where communication comes in.
“The role of communication is very crucial, in fact it is embedded in the IPCC system where you have the so-called ‘Outreach Program’ and therefore, once you have produced the set of reports, there is a deliberate approach in communicating it to various audiences,” Dr. Pulhin said during the briefing.
In this particular scenario, there are two important communications that have to take place. The communication between scientists and stakeholders and the communication between stakeholders and/or decision makers and the general public.
When scientists conduct their studies on the state of climate change, they need to communicate it to stakeholders in order to initiate actionable plans. In this setup, scientists usually explain their findings and what the implications of these findings are to stakeholders. This is to help them understand how the findings may apply to their respective organization.
In the second communication, the stakeholders communicate the findings to the public and how it affects them. In this particular communication, the same process generally holds true, but the choice of words and tools become very crucial since there may be differences in the audiences’ level of understanding or awareness. If the goal is to motivate the public to take necessary actions, the message has to be communicated effectively.
Former Del Carmen, Surigao del Norte Vice Mayor Alfredo Coro II, one of the discussants on the briefing, stressed the need for communicating and localizing the findings in order to inspire people to act.
“There is a necessity to translate science into what would be understood in terms of how it impacts our own work. There has to be clear communication and clear actionable items,” he said.
He also noted that while there are ongoing discussions and existing policies, it is important to consider our own political context and infrastructures and the impacts of these findings on a local level.
“Very particularly with Dr. [Rodel] Lasco’s report, there should be clarity on how do we plan strategically, what are the available technologies that we can use, and how do we now translate or maximize the power of policies [after crafting plans and considering technologies].”
The Challenge in Today’s Digital Era
With the advent of social media and the continuous rise of misinformation and disinformation, how can we effectively communicate matters as important as climate change?
Dr. Antonio M. La Viña, a trustee at the Manila Observatory, posed the question of how can the report and its conclusions be communicated to people in a way that it “survives all the attacks that will be foisted on it by trolls and disinformation.”
He added that it is important for scientists to take into consideration when delivering the reports that there are already ecosystems of trolls and disinformation on climate change, on pandemic science, on politics, and on human rights.
“…climate change disinformation will continue to be out there,” Dr. La Viña said. “This report helps us in that push back [talking about the possible energy crisis with the continuing war in Ukraine] by showing what, in fact, we are already facing and what we are still about to face. The facts, the quality of the science, the certainty of the conclusions to the extent that scientists can be certain, will be a very big instrument in that war over the truth.”
As the effects of climate change continue to worsen, it is of utmost importance that we, as a whole, work collectively. Communication may seem too mundane of a step, but it can and it will help bring about necessary changes to our society. Let’s not let fake news and disinformation derail us from saving our planet and by extensions, future generations.
The “Stakeholders’ Briefing: Latest IPCC Report on Impacts, Adaptation & Vulnerability” was a collaboration of OML Center, Manila Observatory, National Resilience Council, and UPLB Interdisciplinary Studies Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management held on March 3, 2022.
You may watch the full briefing here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?ref=watch_permalink&v=530250968425466
More information and resources for communicators on the IPCC may be found at https://www.omlopezcenter.org/2022-0317-ipcc-ar6wg2-resources-communicators/.