Climate Change has been a topic of intense debate that polarized not only various stake holders but also the community of nations. It has become an economic and political issue although at the back of it all is the question whether globally climate is warming at a rate that can affect ecosystems and humans. This is a question that can be answered by environmental and social scientists through observations, predictive models, etc. However, as recent chain of events in the media involving scientific communications suggest that we scientists have been poor communicators to the public. While quasi and pseudo scientists had a field day in the communicating baseless information, hard-core scientists especially natural and physical scientists had been left out of the debate partially because of their being cocooned in their own world, unable to meaningfully communicate the results of their observations and research.

In my brief involvement in participating in the recent public debate on the retreat of Himalayan Glaciers, I found the thirst of general public for information. This paper will try to analyse and introspect three specific instances of my attempt at communicating what I have learnt through research each in a different setting. The first was a live debate on Lok Sabha Television (People’s Forum, February 28, 2010), the second being Earth Day Celebrations at Jawaharlal Nehru University (April 22, 2010) and third an Open Forum titled,‘Copenhagen and beyond’ on World Environment Day (June 5, 2010). Each of these were a learning experience to me in communicating scientific observations and inferences to various shades of laymen. While all three where opportunities for public communication, what I would call scientific reticence inhibited communication of possible in the first event. The second, which was on home ground and the audience in general where university students and faculty from other fields of study, the take was much better. The third, in Kolkotta became for me an opportunity to communicate and inspire young and not so young people to study Himalayan glaciers.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Climate change–a reality or myth
Communications that Count

Jose Pottakkal   Jawaharlal Nehru University

Climate Change has been a topic of intense debate that polarized not only various stake holders but also the community of nations. It has become an economic and political issue although at the back of it all is the question whether globally climate is warming at a rate that can affect ecosystems and humans. This is a question that can be answered by environmental and social scientists through observations, predictive models, etc. However, as recent chain of events in the media involving scientific communications suggest that we scientists have been poor communicators to the public. While quasi and pseudo scientists had a field day in the communicating baseless information, hard-core scientists especially natural and physical scientists had been left out of the debate partially because of their being cocooned in their own world, unable to meaningfully communicate the results of their observations and research.

In my brief involvement in participating in the recent public debate on the retreat of Himalayan Glaciers, I found the thirst of general public for information. This paper will try to analyse and introspect three specific instances of my attempt at communicating what I have learnt through research each in a different setting. The first was a live debate on Lok Sabha Television (People’s Forum, February 28, 2010), the second being Earth Day Celebrations at Jawaharlal Nehru University (April 22, 2010) and third an Open Forum titled,‘Copenhagen and beyond’ on World Environment Day (June 5, 2010). Each of these were a learning experience to me in communicating scientific observations and inferences to various shades of laymen. While all three where opportunities for public communication, what I would call scientific reticence inhibited communication of possible in the first event. The second, which was on home ground and the audience in general where university students and faculty from other fields of study, the take was much better. The third, in Kolkotta became for me an opportunity to communicate and inspire young and not so young people to study Himalayan glaciers.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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