Climate scientists have long struggled to find the best ways to present crucial facts about future sea level rise to policymakers, stakeholders, and the general public, according to a new study.
But on a positive note, they have started to improve that ability in recent years.
The researchers analyzed decades of language and graphics used in the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change climate assessment reports, highlighting areas of success and identifying areas where language can be improved.
This includes language communicating uncertainty that surrounds future sea level projections, which the analysis found has often been oversimplified or confusing in reports and could potentially lead policymakers to underestimate outcomes and alter plans that counter some of the worst effects of rising waters.
Baylor Fox-Kemper, a professor of earth, environmental, and planetary sciences at Brown University, is a coauthor of the study published in Nature Climate Change and also the lead author of the oceans, ice, and sea-level rise chapter in the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Physical Science Basis Report.
Here, he shares details about key findings from the latest study and why it’s so difficult to prompt urgent action when communicating about climate change: