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Study Flags ‘Shocking’ Lack of Communications Resources at IPCC


The new chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is promising to beef up a communications operation that didn’t even have professional staff when the notorious Climategate “scandal” was concocted by climate deniers in November 2009.

But Hoesung Lee “will have to get up to speed quickly as the crucial Paris summit is almost upon us,” phys.org reports. Over the years, “academics and others have identified some of the obstacles to more effective IPCC communication—a lack of resources, over-reliance on technical language, and failure to take advantage of new media.”

Painter previews a forthcoming survey of 30 policy, business, non-government, higher education, and media leaders that the IPCC had identified as target audiences. He and his colleagues will recommend that IPCC authors “talk directly to local, regional or sector-specific users, particularly when they combine their own expertise and scientific rigour to communicate the findings clearly,” he writes. “Another clear message from the research is that although the IPCC reports set the standard for high-quality science, overall they still suffer from low-quality communication.”

The report points to a shocking lack of resources in the IPCC’s communications office. “The communications team consists of just one head, former Reuters journalist Jonathan Lynn, backed up by one or two colleagues,” Painter writes. While there may not be much call to add permanent media staff when the IPCC sees most of its activity during report releases, “a strong case can be made for increasing selected funding in the following areas: outreach work, building an online and social media strategy, graphics development, learning good practice from other reports, and developing better metrics for assessing how widely the IPCC reports are used.”

The study will also call for more “derivative reports” to deliver the findings of IPCC assessments to finance and business audiences.