The Only Way to Understand Climate Change in a Post-Truth World

Close-up Of Businessman Reading Weather News On Newspaper
Photo Credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Seeing terms like “post-truth” and “alternative facts” gain traction in the news convinces me that politicians, media workers and readers could benefit from a refresher course in how science helps us understand the world. Reporting on science is difficult at the best of times. Trying to communicate complex ideas and distill entire studies into eye-catching headlines and brief stories can open the door to misinformation and limited understanding.

Recent headlines about a climate study, “Shifting patterns of mild weather in response to projected radiative forcing,” in the February 2017 issue of Climatic Change illustrate the predicament. Some news outlets implied the study showed countries such as Canada and the U.K. would benefit from increasingly frequent “mild weather days” brought on by climate change. Many failed to convey the true take-home message: Climate change will have devastating consequences for human civilization. 

Just ask the study’s author, Karin van der Wiel, a research scientist at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. She studied the frequency of mild weather days as a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. She found a few countries, mostly in the…


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