You may have noticed that it's really, really nice out! And after only a few measly inches of snow this "winter," too. Hmmm...warm winter...really warm spring...wait...NOW I GET IT.
Thanks to record-breaking heat waves around the country, Americans are finally starting to consider whether there might be something to this whole "climate change" theory. The public's belief in climate change declined from roughly 75 percent to 55 percent between 2008 and 2011, but recently rose to 62 percent last fall, thanks to first-hand observations of warm weather. Nothing like cold (hot?) hard facts to convince us of inconvenient truths, right? But it's possible that next winter might be cold again, thus (falsely!) alleviating our worries about melting ice caps, which means that scientists really should learn how to convince Americans that climate change is real.
Here's the problem: Americans know next to nothing about science, largely because scientists spend all of their time talking to others in their field. Studies show that only 4 percent of individuals quoted in stories about the 2010 UN climate summit in Copenhagen were scientists, and that only 9 percent of commentary pieces and letters to the editors in major publications were written by university-based scientists in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Unfortunately, scientists don't snag promotions or tenure by educating the public, so they spend their time publishing theoretical pieces in academic journals instead. Mainstream projects such as commercial books are looked down upon as "anti-intellectual." PSA to scientists: you are not hipsters! You are the saviors of Mother Earth! Please act appropriately.
Another issue is that the few experts who do speak out about climate change are, well, boring. Where are our Carl Sagans and Bill Nyes? Global warming denialists have captivating liars like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh on their side, while we have... Al Gore. As a result, the percentage of conservatives and Republicans who believe in global warming declined from around 50 percent in 2001 to 30 percent in 2010.
Writing for the Christian Science Monitor, Andrew Hoffman proposes some solutions: scientists should link research to real world problems, sharpen their PR and communication skills, and research "why people may either reject or accept what science 'experts' say about problems and solutions." Alternate suggestion: what about a new Bravo TV show called America's Next Top Scientist? We've got to jazz things up, people, because the ozone layer can't vouch for itself.
Are Academic Scholars "Lost to the Academy"? A Call for More Public Intellectuals in the Climate Change Debate [Network for Business Sustainability]
Warm spring weather and global warming: If only scientists could be so persuasive [Christian Science Monitor]
Image via Warren Goldswain/Shutterstock.