Texas Tech University

From peak CO2 to record-low sea ice: making sense of climate news

Amanda Paulson

May 25, 2018

The Christian Science Monitor - Watching climate milestones whiz past can be overwhelming and disheartening. Climate scientists are trying to walk a fine line between keeping the public informed and making people feel helpless.

Following climate news can mean taking note of a regular stream of indicators: when carbon dioxide levels pass various thresholds, record temperatures, record low levels of Arctic sea ice. But does noting such milestones keep the public engaged, or does it just raise anxiety levels or fade into a sea of data? Climate scientists differ on the answer to that question. Most agree that certain indicators are important to keep an eye on and also that it's key to put them in a meaningful context. "The challenge with climate change is that it's a slow-moving crisis," says Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. Anytime she talks to the public, she not only includes facts and figures but also shares two central ideas: how climate change is already affecting people in the places they live and what solutions are being implemented. "The two biggest myths are, it doesn't matter to me, and there's nothing we can do to fix it," says Dr. Hayhoe. "This is what I talk about almost every single time."

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