This blog post is reposted with permission from Roger D. Aines and Amy L. Aines, authors of Championing Science: Communicating Your Ideas to Decision Makers.
“Facts aren’t optional. We can say we don’t believe them but they’re still true.”
— Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist, Director of the Texas Tech University
Climate Science Center
Dr. Katharine Hayhoe shows scientists how to answer questions to make an impact. Her televised interview with Anderson Cooper, in response to the recently published Fourth National Climate Assessment, drives home several principles for championing science.
Be Human and Credible
Hayhoe does an excellent job of showing up as both human and credible. She speaks about her role in creating the Climate Assessment report and weaves indisputable facts into her answers. She personalizes information when referencing the extensive use of wind and solar energy which she says is already cheaper in many places, “including Texas where I live,” than natural gas and coal.
Use Iconic Analogies
Calling climate scientists physicians of the planet who understand that the planet is running a fever paints a picture of her caring attitude and commitment to her work. She doesn’t get bogged down citing temperatures and statistics unlike many climate scientists who talk about the 2 degree goal and what happens if we miss it. Instead she simply states: “The impacts are serious and will become dangerous.” She also made it clear that scientists don’t work on climate issues for the money.
Balance Precision with Impact
When asked about China, Hayhoe succinctly describes the difference between air pollution and carbon pollution, using understandable terms. She doesn’t get sucked in to details or the need to be precise or overly technical in her definitions. She keeps her sentences fairly short. This helps the listener digest the information without distracting them from what she says next.
Get Your Message Across
It’s clear that Hayhoe went into this interview well prepared to address climate change deniers. She knew her message. She says that just because there are extremely cold days doesn’t mean things aren’t warming up on average. She supports her message with statistical proof points, citing that last year we broke 10,000 low temperature records, but more than 30,000 high temp records.
Watch her in action on Anderson Cooper 360: