Tipping point

Over the past 15 years or so, the use of the term ‘tipping point’ has exploded in the scientific literature. My current interest was sparked by a new paper on tipping points published in Science. The lead author is David Armstrong McKay, a University of Exeter Earth systems scientist, and the paper is an update …

Climate change and language change

For over ten years I have now been thinking and writing about extreme weather events, especially floods and fires, and how they are verbally and visually represented in the media and beyond. Over that decade the issue of extreme weather has become increasingly topical and people no longer hesitate to discuss this topic in the …

Extreme event/weather communication

Communication sciences span a large array of fields and issues. We have science communication, risk communication, crisis communication, health communication, and, of course climate change communication. Over the last few years, it has become clear to me that when it comes to climate and weather, all these communication efforts converge and become part of what …

The sky is falling and the trees are crying: Reflections on extreme weather

For some weeks now, I wanted to write something about ‘rain bombs’, a relatively new weather/climate phenomenon and metaphor – but I didn’t get round to it. Then, last week, when I sat down to write, thoughts about strong rain were displaced by thoughts about fire and heat. In the end I decided to write …

The IPCC report: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerabilities

When I think about the latest IPCC report, which came out on 28 February, these sentences come to my (German) mind: Eintritt streng verboten! Eintritt strengstens verboten!! Eintritt allerstrengstens verboten!!! (Entry strictly forbidden. Entry very strictly forbidden. Entry extremely strictly forbidden.) These words are written on warning signs that adorn three doors in the classic …

Making Science Public 2021: End of year round-up of blog posts

We are coming to the end of a another pandemic year, and time seems to expand endlessness towards an uncertain horizon. That means quite a few of my blog posts this year were still devoted to covid and the pandemic, but I also wrote about genetics, climate change and some other incidental topics. As usual, …

The concept of net zero hangs in the balance

‘Net zero’ has been in the air for a while and I let it waft over me without taking much notice. However, a few days ago I read Ken Rice’s thoughts on this matter on his And Then There’s Physics blog. He argues against a “recurring narrative that the concept of net-zero is flawed”, saying …

Geoengineering metaphors: 2011 and 2021

I recently saw this call for papers for a Preconference at the 72nd Annual Conference of the International Communication Association on May 25, 2022 “The Science of Science Communication: Mapping the Field”. The invitation starts with this paragraph: “The beginning of the new century’s ‘Roaring 20s’ is determined by global crises around climate change, biodiversity …

IPCC reports, climate change and language work

This blog post is not about climate change communication. It is about what I call the ‘language work’ carried out by scientists when writing the various IPCC reports. Introduction On 9 August 2021 the first part of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, namely the Contribution of Working Group 1 …

When climate change hits home: A personal story

This month, Alice Bell has published an important book entitled Our Biggest Experiment: A History of the Climate Crisis. In it, she takes us “back to climate change science’s earliest steps in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, through the point when concern started to rise in the 1950s and right up to today, where the …