Science and (Co)science: Taking Action through Effective Science Outreach

 Science and (Co)science: Taking Action through Effective Science Outreach

To communicate scienze is a difficult yet essential task to create awareness and look for solution to climate change. An EU-led event at the COP26 dealt with how to improve scientific communication and support people in tackling the climate emergency.

By Simone Predelli | YPG Italy

How deeply do we understand the hard facts and data behind climate change? How much confusion and possibly fear arises from the difficulty in communicating and understanding science? Yet only through collective and informed action we have a chance to change things. The general public, i.e. all of us, has the right to be informed in an appropriate and up-to-date way about climate change, so to be involved in a participatory and voluntary decision-making process. But what are the costs and difficulties? How can we act to improve communication and public participation in science?

An event at the European Union Pavilion here at COP26 today (01/11/2021) explored these issues from various perspectives and looked at ways in which this phenomenon can be addressed.

First, the role of universities was addressed. As Universities are very connected to workplaces and young people, they are the perfect tool to achieve the goals of the European Green Deal, i.e. the set of European initiatives to reach a resilient and climate neutral continent by 2050. Universities can intervene at the educational level, and can put forward new educational methods to create solutions that start with young people and are better suited to address the problems related to the implementation of the Green Deal. How can this be done? The suggestion brought by Douglas Halliday, on behalf of European University Association (EUA) is to leverage the inherent qualities of the university, such as its ubiquity throughout Europe and its representation of young people as a awy to address issues of transparent communication, appropriate response to Europe’s great diversity, and ongoing adaptation of issues that may arise.  

And there are already people who, through their projects, are trying to deal with this change. In fact, there are scientific projects that take great care of the participation of society by offering spaces, within their own platforms, for dialogue with the public. This enables both an exchange of information and the possibility to co-design knowledge, given the bilateral dialogue that makes research a much more participatory process. One of these is Soclimpact, a project to create a pathway to “decarbonization” in island systems, which offers a decision support system for adaptation and a platform open to the public.

But there is an obstacle, even a bit unexpected: our psyche. As told by our article “Generation Z(ero): the impact of climate change on perceptions of the future”, negative feelings about climate change are widespread, especially among young people. Therefore, psychological science is critical in addressing climate change. Psychology must be embedded within the strategies to address the climate emergency. In fact, emotions (often negative ones such as anxiety and stress) cause reactions in everyone, even those who deny them, and these emotions, if poorly managed, can influence decision-making processes. Part of this anxiety stems from the way climate change information is disseminated. This is precisely why, we are told, psychology is key to provide the introspection which is needed to disclose science appropriately. But our participation is crucial: the more feedback we receive, the greater is the ability of psychology to advise.

The importance of university involvement was a central theme within the event, and this certainly gives hope for greater engagement of the youth in the future. In any case, a key message to take home from the event was the willingness and the need for better scientific communication, so that  people will feel more represented within European policies. Therefore, it is essential that Universities and youth participation are considered within the change we need to tackle climate change. Only in this way will we be able to build effective actions and be major players in the world we live and will live. Possibly, without too much anxiety.

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