“Robert-Koch-Institute reports highest daily number of infections”, appears on the screen of my phone. The local newspaper lying on the kitchen table is titled with a similar headline, corona is issue number one in the evening TV-news, and my Instagram feed recommends a livestream of the government´s press conference.
How was the Covid-19 pandemic communicated by different leaders in their televised speeches and why does it matter?
by Hadas Emma Kedar
Six months have passed since nations of the world have locked-down against the spread of Covid-19. After its classification as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020, leaders have addressed their nations to declare an emergency. These “addressing the nation” speeches are worth examining, as they deal with the same crisis at the same point of time, and it seems fair to assert that a great deal of a society’s behavior stems from its leader’s public expressions. For example, terms like war, enemy or discipline might encourage anxiety and violence among citizens, while challenge, strength and solidarity might encourage emotional strength and decrease anxiety.
Last August, our blogger Shorouk Elkobros explained what a climate model is in this video. One year later, climate models are still an essential tool for understanding global warming. In order to remind us how climate models work, Felix Schaumann has put together his own explanatory video.
One of the many privileges of holding a Professorship at the University of Hamburg and being involved in the Cluster of Excellence, which unites researchers from different disciplines around the issue of climate change (see CLICCS website ), is that you have the opportunity to meet and have lunch with highly inspiring and thought-provoking people such as Hans von Storch.
Flying is bad for the climate – this is an uncontested fact. However, air traffic is necessary for weather forecasts, as airplanes send live data to weather stations. COVID-19 has caused a massive decline in air travel, hereby affecting the quality of weather forecasts.
A new study by Samset et al. (2020) in Nature Communcations finds that even under strong and sustained mitigation efforts, it will take the climate system until mid-century to demonstrate a discernible cooling response. Unfortunately, we must accept and live with the frustrating fact that the global climate system is a rather gigantic tanker ship that will change its course only several decades after humanity has decided to pull the emissions steering wheel into another direction. Yet, we should also think about what may motivate immediate action to reduce the risk of climate collapse in the far future. Rather than only fixating on the nebulous, future benefits of present-day climate protection, I would suggest that communicators should focus on highlighting positive short-term side effects of climate protection measures.
A common explanation for delayed mitigation action concerning the climate crisis cites the fact that the response of climate policies is only visible on a decadal timespan – thereby affecting neither quarterly profits nor parliamentary terms. COVID19 on the other hand only has a knowledge delay of up to 2 weeks, before infection events reveal their effects.
I would like to explore how these different dynamics of action and response play out and what they mean for the politicisation of science.
As natural scientists, we hopefully learn multiple concepts about uncertainty throughout our education and research, and, at some point, the time will come when we need to put them into practice. This post comes from the necessity of a first approach to assemble some of the multiple guidelines and recommendations that we receive regarding climate change communication. I am not referring particularly to the topic of communication in newspapers or TV, but to a much more mundane request. In this case, my goal is to have a structured set of rules or steps that a natural scientist working on climate change can follow when trying to address a day-to-day conversation on the topic.
A few days ago, at the end of March, it snowed! Having never experienced snow this late in Hamburg and with the knowledge that 2019 was the second warmest year on record after 2016, my first thought was: this must be the direct cooling effect due to the COVID-19 induced industrial shutdown.
I felt a strange sense of righteousness, as if all climate change skeptics and politicians could now no longer deny the link between economic growth and global warming. This is of course an extremely oversimplified analysis; it is impossible to link two unexpected snow days in Hamburg with a global slowing down in industrial production . Moreover, climate change is a statistically significant variation in “average weather” over a period of 30 years, such that we cannot make any scientifically sound connections between a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions lasting but a few months and global warming.
Nevertheless, the economic shutdown has led to some directly observable environmental benefits.