More Than Scientists, Mauna Loa, and Better Climate Communication

, lead analyst, Center for Science and Democracy | March 31, 2015, 12:30 pm EDT
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At UCS when we are thinking about the best way to communicate new scientific results, my colleague Aaron Huertas often asks me, “How do the results make you feel?” As he wrote, the exercise can be helpful in bringing scientific findings back to human emotions and why the results might matter to others. A new campaign called More Than Scientists seeks to enact this effect on a broader scale and I was happy to take part in it.

Together we are more than scientists

In a new video above, I share my thoughts about why I choose to work on climate change-related issues and why I think such work is important. My husband and I explain how we—as scientists—came to study climate change and how that relates to our lives. As I note in the video, when I think about the future and what we will pass on to the next generation, I want to be able to say that we did everything we could to try to address climate change and minimize its impact on people.

The Keeling Curve, named for Scripps professor Charles David Keeling, is longest running time-series of atmospheric CO2 measurements taken at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

The Keeling Curve, named for Scripps professor Charles David Keeling, is longest running time-series of atmospheric CO2 measurements taken at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

The More Than Scientists campaign is a great example of the kind of outlet for which the UCS Science Network provides resources to help scientists communicate. The 17,000-scientists-strong Science Network hosts webinars, provides tips and tools on effective science communication, and works with early career scientists interested in communicating their science beyond the lab—to the public, the media, decision makers, and more. As our Science Network blog posts demonstrate, many scientists have found effective outlets for communicating their science to broader audiences. Alexis Goggans found her calling working on environmental justice issues. Felix Aguilar is a family physician working with underserved populations in Los Angeles. He works with other scientists to address the causes of disease he sees in his clinic, namely the link between air pollution and asthma.

Mauna Loa: Measuring carbon at the top of the world

Last week, I had the chance to meet a few scientists doing important climate change work at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. Several times a week, scientists who work here must travel 17 miles on a windy one-lane road over lava flows up the world’s largest mountain mass to take important measurements of our atmosphere and the sun. Mauna Loa’s monitoring has provided us with the longest continuous measurement of carbon dioxide in the world, now famously known as the Keeling Curve. Such data has been instrumental in monitoring our changing atmosphere and today helps scientists around the world collect essential research information.

Scientists at the Mauna Loa Observatory help me take an (unofficial) air sample 11,000 feet above sea level.

Scientists at the Mauna Loa Observatory help me take an (unofficial) air sample 11,000 feet above sea level.

Seeing the important work of scientists at Mauna Loa reminds me of the importance of communicating climate science. I appreciated the willingness of scientists there to explain to me their instrumentation, share stories of the laboratory’s history, and even allow me to take an (unofficial) air sample (see photo). Without those willing to explain their science—and why it matters—to the public, the media, and decision makers, we won’t be able to make progress on addressing climate change and other science-based issues with serious consequences.

Optimism and smarts

As I said in a recent TV interview on this project, I continue to be optimistic about climate change and our ability to address it. Like those at Mauna Loa, we have a lot of smart minds working on all aspects of predicting, mitigating, and adapting to climate change. We are making progress and I have confidence in the future. More Than Scientists and the UCS Science Network are helping us hear more about these scientists and I know they have confidence in our future, too.

Posted in: Global Warming, Science and Democracy, Science Communication Tags: , ,

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