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Scientists urged to 'speak the same language' as public on climate

by Zoe Tabary | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 5 June 2018 18:24 GMT

Children and youth are seen during climate march prior to the opening session of the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference 2017, hosted by Fiji but held in Bonn, in World Conference Center Bonn, Germany, November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

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Use the "huge reach and knowledge" of TV weather presenters to make technical information easy to understand, experts say.

By Zoe Tabary

PARIS, June 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Scientists must "speak the same language as the public" if they are to spur action that will help the world recover from the worsening impacts of climate change, experts said on Wednesday.

With hurricanes, floods and other impacts of climate change becoming increasingly destructive, scientists say countries urgently need to step up their ambitions to cut emissions to keep global warming within safe limits.

But weather experts at the International Weather and Climate Forum in Paris said efforts to adapt to climate change would fall on deaf ears unless scientists did a better job of explaining climate issues.

"It can be hard to get the public to care about (the) climate," said Helga van Leur, a Dutch weather presenter and TV personality.

"They see it as complicated, distant, and just not at the top of their list of priorities."

One way to remedy this is to make use of the "huge reach and knowledge" of TV weather presenters to make technical information easy to understand, said Jill Peeters, a Belgian weather presenter and meteorologist.

Last year she set up Climate Without Borders, a network of over 140 weather presenters from 110 countries, who exchange information on a daily basis on a WhatsApp group about world weather and climate.

"Weather presenters aren't just handsome and popular, they can have a voice on climate as the public trusts them," Peeters told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Through data and training, she aims to equip them with a "backpack of tools" so they can better communicate to the public about climate and weather issues.

Clare Nullis, spokeswoman for the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said weather agencies should move from "predicting what the weather will be to what (damage) it will do" to help authorities prepare for disasters.

"In Puerto Rico, for example, the official death toll of Hurricane Maria was relatively limited, but it had a significant cascading effect – people didn't have electricity, homes were destroyed."

Weather scientists, the public and authorities that issue warnings like public health bodies should "speak the same language ... or disasters will be more expensive and difficult to manage," she added.

(Reporting by Zoe Tabary @zoetabary, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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