by Emma Kahle
On April 12th, a lovely spring afternoon, students, faculty, and staff gathered to learn about science advocacy. OCN 425 filled to the brim with folks interested in how to address the topic of climate with audiences skeptical of climate change or of science in general. These “hostile” audiences could include reporters (getting interviewed for your latest climate publication?), legislators (testifying before the House Science Committee?), or members of the public you meet in person or on the Internet.
It turns out it can be tough to respond confidently, succinctly, and convincingly to questions about climate change, let alone questions aimed to confuse or disrupt your train of thought. We heard from a couple of panelists about their careers in science and advocacy and how they’ve faced the challenges of communication. We got a brief training from UCS about advocacy communication and how to stay on point. Finally, as the grand finale of the workshop, we broke into groups to practice one-on-one interactions with a “hostile” partner.
My main takeaways from the event focus on sticking to your message. Deliver one main point for your audience to walk away remembering. Be confident in your knowledge as a climate scientist and ability to represent and defend at least some piece of climate science. Practice explaining the concepts and scientific evidence ahead of time so you can be clear in future encounters with a hostile audience. Some difficult questions with a discussion of ways to answer them were compiled for the event and can be found here.
Looking forward, UCS will help facilitate a graduate-student-led climate science advocacy event on UW campus. The idea for the event is broad and open to be shaped by anyone interested in getting involved. If you’re interested in learning more about that event or UCS in general, contact the Outreach Coordinator, Emily Heffling (EHeffling@ucsusa.org), who facilitated the PCC training.
Emma Kahle is a graduate student in the Earth and Space Science Department studying paleoclimate through ice core records from Greenland and Antarctica. She is a member of the PCC Graduate Student Steering Committee, and she coordinates K-12 Earth Science outreach in the greater Seattle area.