Lost in Climate Change Reports

The UN’s next global climate change conference is fast approaching. Hosted by France, the conference aims to achieve a new international agreement on the climate with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. This is not a new goal as we know – the Copenhagen Meeting in 2009 also wanted to reach the same.

Those interested might find it useful to read some recent reports on the topic to keep themselves up to date. However, by starting with the probably most well-known ones (IPCC’s climate change reports), one surely realises that their language becomes very hard to understand. In a recent article, a number of scientists analysed the language used by IPCC and concluded that her studies have become less readable over time. Another interesting finding of the article was that these reports were usually more optimistic and used more positive words than the general media did. For me, it was not just IPCC’s cited report which was hard to read but all related reports like EEA’s Report on the European environment, FAO’s Climate Change and Food Systems Report or the OECD’s Climate Change Mitigation report.

Such lack of clarity creates a lot of problems. First, if policymakers do not understand the essence of these reports, it is hard to imagine how they can make wise decisions on these topics. Second, an even worse consequence can be the misunderstanding of the main messages leading to bad decisions. Third, if a good number of decision makers give up catching the message, the probability of a political consensus to fail, as happened many times in the past, increases. Fourth, if these reports really use a more positive language than they should, it might create a feeling among policy makers that the problem is not that serious as they have expected.

As far as the Common Agricultural Policy is concerned, the European way of thinking about the future of climate change also lacks clarity. We have a European Environmental Agency responsible for various topics related to climate change, we have a European Climate Change Programme, we have a CAP, elements of which are responsible for climate change, the EU has a Sustainable Development Strategy, partly related to climate change and so on. At this point, the question comes whether it is the topic which is complex or we make it even more complicated or both.

On the whole, it seems there is a high need for effective science communication. However, in light of these reports, it will be a great challenge to UN’s upcoming Paris conference to achieve a global agreement, also valid for members of the European Union.

This post was written by Attila Jambor.

Photo: The Star.

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