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Activism and civil disobedience help communicate climate change

According to a group of climate change biologists including Professor Pete Smith from the University of Aberdeen, global movements of civil disobedience focused on climate change are playing an important role in increasing brand awareness and engagement with climate change issues.

These analyses emerged when a Global Change biology editorial meeting occurred in the same week as the September Global climate strikes.  Lead authors and Global Change Biology Editors, Professors Sharon Robinson and Pete Smith, and Ms Rhea Bruno co-led the analysis looking at trends in reporting of climate change in online and broadcast media.

Professor Robinson claims scientists are being cornered for not being expressive enough within their research “as though the reason for a lack of action on climate change is because we have not been compelling enough.”

Ms Bruno believes that there is a discrepancy between being a scientist and communicating about science. Professor Robinson adds that scientists are always cautious of using emotive idioms within their research. Scientists have boundaries around displaying concern and using languages like crisis and emergency.  A recent development came when the public domain, particularly the younger generation, is finally taking interest in science.

The authors found that the keywords ‘climate action’ and ‘climate emergency’ accompanied by global protests were generally not searched for in the past, but their use increased 20-fold in 2019.

The editorial which was supported by Global Change Biology founder Professor Steve Long and many of the journal’s editors concludes that to address the significant environmental challenges facing society, we need the very best scientists, teachers and communicators capable of translating science to motivate and inspire wider audiences, including the public and policymakers. “Science without activism is powerless to enact change, but activism without science cannot directly change where it is needed. Both science and activism are needed for great societal change. Student movements are giving scientists hope that political and economic change will come.”


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