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Aaron Huertas

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About the author: Aaron Huertas is a science communications officer at UCS with expertise in helping scientists represent their work to the media and the public. He conducts workshops for scientists and other technical experts and has previously worked at the National Air and Space Museum and for Congressman Jim Saxton (R-NJ). See Aaron’s full bio.

Book Review: How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate by Andrew Hoffman

A few years ago, my colleagues and I worked with Andrew Hoffman, the director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan, to host a forum on increasing public understanding of climate change. The event sticks with me because the participants came from so many different backgrounds: environmental justice, Creation care, energy production, social science, media, climate science, and service in Congress.

Hoffman has condensed the myriad approaches to climate communication we discussed that day — and much more — into an indispensable guide. At a slim 100 pages, Hoffman’s book offers a fine distillation of the growing body of social science that explains our curious and conflicting approaches to climate issues. In addition to identifying the problematic ways we often approach climate change, he also suggests several potential ways forward that can restore the climate debate to what he calls a “more civilized plane.” Read More

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Can Republican Politicians Change Their Tune on Climate and Energy?

When former Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) ran for president in 2011, he flatly rejected climate science and even claimed that scientists had manipulated climate data. But last week, in response to a question about climate and energy issues at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he touted his environmental record, instead. Read More

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Willie Soon’s Failure to Disclose Industry Funding for Contrarian Climate Research is Another Reason to Support Transparency

My first job in science communication was as an “Explainer” in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The program helps visitors – particularly students – understand the forces of flight. Our uniforms included red polo shirts that said “The Explainer Program” on the front and had the name of the company that sponsored the program – Cessna Aircraft – on the sleeve.

I recall this old uniform because the Smithsonian is under scrutiny for an entirely different type of sponsorship that was hidden from public view. Read More

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Four Ways Scientists Can Give Good Answers to Bad Questions

This post originally appeared on the American Geophysical Union’s Plainspoken Scientist blog.

One of the reasons I love working with scientists is that they tend to be very direct. Ask a question: get an answer. Sometimes the answer is a little long and makes me revisit basic physics I haven’t thought about since middle school, but I definitely get an answer.

Thankfully, most of the questions journalists, policymakers and citizens ask scientists are straightforward. But many are off-base and sometimes even badly framed. If a scientist provides a direct answer to a bad question, they can inadvertently leave audiences with an inaccurate impression of their work. While the examples below won’t happen to every researcher, they illustrate good principles for effectively dealing with such questions. Read More

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We Need Sharper Questions for a Broken Climate Debate

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) recently claimed that human-caused climate change “is not well-established.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he wanted to “let scientists debate…” why the climate is changing.

By contrast, Mitt Romney reportedly said “that while he hopes the skeptics about global climate change are right, he believes it’s real and a major problem,” according to the Des Moines Register. Read More

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Response to Nature’s “Speak up for science;” We Have to Do More

Nature just published a helpful piece from Virginia Gewin on how scientists can deal with people who criticize their work.

I liked the piece and I’m always happy to see scientific journals and scientific societies help researchers communicate. That said, I want to add a few other considerations to the discussion. Read More

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What Was the Top #ScienceFail for 2014?

Science isn’t easy. Scientific research is often difficult, tedious, and can take years to come to fruition. And it’s because it takes such dogged effort to reach solid scientific conclusions that we trust the work scientists do. Unfortunately, too many politicians and institutions reject or distort scientific conclusions they don’t like.

We all lose when political spin runs roughshod over evidence scientists have uncovered regarding risks to our health and well-being. Sadly, such incidents are now commonplace enough to have their own hashtag: #ScienceFail. Here are our nominations for the worst cases of #ScienceFail for 2014. Read More

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Who Else Stood Up for Science in 2014? Our Members’ Picks

When we announced our Got Science? champs for 2014, we asked our members whose story inspired them the most. We also asked them to share stories about other people who stood up for science in 2014. We received about 500 responses; here are some highlights: Read More

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How to Talk About Climate Change at Thanksgiving: Recipes for Good Conversations

My mother’s family is politically diverse. And opinionated. As my grandmother tells it, the last time she and my grandfather voted for the same president was Eisenhower. Like a lot of families, our discussions around the holidays can veer into national issues and politics. Sometimes those discussions are enlightening, but they can also devolve into arguments. Read More

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Out of Facts, Climate Contrarians Seek to Intimidate

Last week, my colleague Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel gave a talk alongside Dr. Michael Mann, a Penn State professor who has faced constant harassment from politicians and groups that don’t accept mainstream climate science.

The event received an outsize amount of scrutiny from climate contrarians, including some misleading and forceful demands directed at Dr. Mann and the event organizers. Read More

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