Friday, February 27, 2015

The problem with consensus

The issue of scientific consensus on climate change is back in the news again. For a good primer, see Chris Mooney's latest piece in the Washington Post: "Researchers think they’ve found a “gateway belief” that leads to greater science acceptance." I just want to jump quickly to what I find so challenging with focusing on consensus (and there are many) as a means to sway public opinion: if you view the climate change issue through a conflict lens, consensus is not the answer. Research actually shows the opposite -- that in intractable conflicts, which I believe climate change has become, introducing nuance, shades of gray, and multiple perspectives is what leads to change.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Scientists Have Feelings Too

I was a scientist just a few years out of graduate school when I had a career-altering experience speaking with a man in tears at a community workshop. A large cluster of wildfires had burned through his small, close-knit northern California town, and many residents were forced to evacuate their homes. They were worried that their properties would be unprotected in the time they had to stay away: firefighting resources were strained due to additional wildfires in other parts of the state. Emotions ran high for everyone as my colleagues and I presented our work on how houses burn during wildfires.