Plenary on Communication on Climate Change

Wednesday, 15 September 2010, 14:45–18:00

Climate change issues are debated heavily in the media since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is under attack and accused of being politicized or biased. This has changed the public perception on climate science, in some cases putting pressure on politicians to postpone or even cancel adaptation and mitigation measures. Although it is emphasized by the climate research community that the big picture is not affected by an error in the reporting of climate impacts, communicating the state-of-the-art knowledge on climate change is a difficult task. In particular, transfering knowledge on uncertainties on various time and spatial scales remains problematic.

Climate change adaptation measures are based on local climate change, not on the projected global mean temperature increase. A main challenge is that most crucial information is the least reliable: The smaller the scale, the larger the uncertainties. The scientific community therefore needs to communicate uncertainties to the general public and policy makers in a way that these are correctly interpreted.

The central issue in this session is how to connect transmitters and receivers of climate information. How to communicate scientific results from the perspectives of scientists, media and receivers of information, such as policy makers, stakeholders and the general public? When should it be passive one-way communication and when more in dialogue? How is communication on climate issues organized on the national level and what are the pitfalls and results? How to deal with uncertainty and risks? How to create awareness on the level of scientific understanding of climate change, risks and the need for adaptation and mitigation strategies?

A plenary session on communication on climate change will be organized with presentations by scientists, journalists, stakeholders and policy makers, aiming to optimize the process of transfering information.


R. van Dorland (KNMI, The Netherlands), R. Benestad (, Norway), T. Cegnar (EARS, Slovenia)

Location and time: Audimax (F30), 14:45

14:45 – 16:00 Presentations

    14:45 – 14:55 Introduction by convenors

    14:55 Robert Dijkgraaf, President, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences 
    - Review of the processes and procedures of the IPCC

    15:15 Andre Jol
    - Strategies to adapt to climate change and information needs

    15:35 Martin Visbeck, Deputy Director, IFM-Geomar, Kiel, Germany,
    Chair Programme Committee World Climate Conference – 3
    - From Climate Assessments to Climate Services: Opportunities and Challenges for Climate Change Communications

16:00 – 16:30 Coffee Break

16:30 – 17:45 Panel Discussion

    Moderator: Huw Davies, ETH, Switzerland

    Robert Dijkgraaf – President, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences

    Thomas Stocker – Co-Chair IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) - Working Group I

    Martin Bäumle – Member of the Swiss National Parliament
    Member of the Commission for the Environment and Energy, President of the Green-liberal Party

    Fred Pearce– Science journalist, London, UK

    David Bresch – Head of Sustainability & Emerging Risk Management, Swiss Re