One of the problems that scientists have in communicating the issue to the public is that they aren’t professional communicators.
They are at the top of their game when researching and publishing among their peer group. Talking to reporters and being blinded by camera lights isn’t where they shine.
Even the writing they do is full of what seems like jargon to the man on the street. Most of us don’t use words like anthropogenic1 in daily conversations; we don’t quite know what forcings and feedbacks are.
Paul Hebert, Editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal said that one of the ways he knows when a pharmaceutical company might have ghost-written an article is when it’s well written. Here’s an audio clip2 of him saying just that (10 seconds).
There are two other reasons that climate scientists normally shun publicity.
First, most scientists frown on showboat researchers who try to gain attention outside the strict world of peer reviewed journals. It’s not public opinion that counts to these people, its facts and data that count.
Seeking out mainstream media coverage goes against the grain for most scientists; they fear that their peers will think less of them.
Second, there is an entire climate change denial industry out there. A scientist who sticks his head out of the foxhole risks personal attacks in the media and even lawsuits designed mainly to intimidate.
Quite aside from all that, it takes a lot of hard work to get the attention of the media. Plus you have to repeat your story again and again and again.
But that’s where the climate deniers shine. They have ample funds to hire the best communications talent and are leaders in guerrilla marketing tactics.
1) Anthropogenic means “caused or produced by humans” and my point that it isn’t a word used in everyday conversation was underlined when I realized that I had mistakenly used the word anthropomorphic instead in an earlier draft of this piece. Anthropomorphic means “ascribing human form or attributes to something not human.” Forcings are what climate scientists call the forces that cause climate to change. Feedbacks are forces that come into play as a result of climate change, usually amplifying it, occasionally putting a damper on it.
2) The audio clip above is taken from a CBC Radio One archive of the show The Current from September 1, 2011. The context was the ethics of medical ghostwriting. As an example of how far corporations will go to try to “pretty up” their products, here is another clip from the same show featuring former medical ghostwriter Dr. Linda Logdberg (25 seconds).