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People don’t understand climate jargonーscience communication could help

There are many hurdles ahead as we adjust our world towards a carbon neutral future, but one of the biggest may perhaps just be communicating to the everyday citizen what climate change is and how we address it. A recent study found that some of the most common terms used to discuss the climate crisis aren’t fully understood by most of the general public.

Researchers gauged the public’s understanding of climate-related words like “mitigation,” “carbon neutral,” and “unprecedented transition” and found that there is still a lot of misunderstanding or lack of understanding about what these terms mean. For example, many respondents confused the word “mitigation” with the word “mediation” and few could give a clear answer on what “carbon” actually refers to.

“I think the main message is to avoid jargon,” says study lead author Wändi Bruine de Bruin. “That includes words that may seem like everyone should understand them.”

Climate change affects everyone on earth, yet this study illustrates that many are being left behind when it comes to defining and explaining the climate crisis and its solutions. The researchers hope this study will be informative for not only scientists who produce climate reports, but also journalists who convey them to the general public. One group taking not of the need for clearer communication is the scientists working on the National Climate Assessment.

The fifth edition of the National Climate Assessment is set to be released in 2023, and assessment director Allison Crimmins tells NPR that her team is focusing on accessibility. This included pairing dense technical information with an explanatory video for the general public. “You shouldn’t need an advanced degree or a decoder ring to figure out a National Climate Assessment,” she says.

Source study: Climatic Change Public understanding of climate change terminology

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