Behind Closed Doors, Scientists Ponder Credibility Crisis, New PR Strategy

  • Date: 15/06/10

Scientists and academics from some of Australia’s top national institutions met in Sydney today to discuss how to improve public awareness of the science behind climate change.

Representatives of the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Bureau of Meteorology want to develop a ”national communication charter” to win back public support for action on climate change.

The Australian government postponed its carbon trading scheme earlier this year until 2013 citing a lack of public and political support for reducing carbon emissions.

A number of recent polls have suggested that controversy over the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change data on Himalayan glaciers and the University of East Anglia leaked emails debacle have damaged public perception of climate science.

One poll by the Lowy Institute for International Policy showed that the number of Australians who wanted action on climate change immediately had dropped from 68 per cent in 2006 to 46 per cent this year.

Australia’s chief scientist Penny Sackett addressed the conference, which was closed to the public.

Cathy Foley, president of the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, told the Melbourne Age that scientists wanted Australians to have better access to the latest climate change evidence.

“We want… the public and parliamentarians who are making decisions on what we have to do to manage or deal with climate change actually understand what the science is and are able to cut through the noise that’s been coming about,” she said.

Foley said a well organised and well funded movement of climate sceptics had increasingly captured the public’s attention.

”We are concerned the debate around climate change has become a left-wing versus right-wing debate, or a kind of religious argument, when it should really be about the strength of the scientific evidence,” she added.

In March, the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology published a snap shot report on climate change showing Australia had warmed significantly in the past 50 years and warning that ”climate change is real”.

The government committed AU$30m (US$25.6m) for a national campaign to educate the public on climate change in the budget last month, and one of the aims of today’s meeting was to develop a strategy to advise officials on how best to spend the money.

Business Green, 15 June 2010

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