Dr. Richard Alley, Winner of the Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication (12/6/11)

The Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication Dr. Richard Alley, Professor of Geosciences, Penn State The event is a moving tribute to the late Stanford University climatologist Stephen Schneider, as Richard Alley is honored as the inaugural winner of the Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication. Alley, the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, is also host of the PBS documentary "Earth: The Operators Manual." Alley and Climate One’s Greg Dalton talk about the challenges confronting scientists who carry on Schneider’s legacy of communicating climate science to the public and policymakers. The intent of the PBS series and companion book, Alley says, is to present both the risks and opportunities presented by climate change, and to use different messengers to tell the story. “We’re hoping to communicate more, not only the imperatives of doing something, but the amazing opportunities that are out there,” he says. The good news is that we have the tools we need to get started. “The first place to start is that we know we can get there without game-changers. This is the wonderful thing. If you can get a hundredth of a percent of the sun’s energy, that’s all of humanity’s energy. If you can put a wind farm on the windiest 20% of the plains and deserts of the world, that is far more than humanity’s energy needs.” And it helps if that message isn’t coming solely from him: “‘Climate change matters to you,’ I can say that. But why now have an admiral in the U.S. Navy say it, because climate change matters to them.” He also doesn’t want to prescribe policy solutions. “I would like very much to bring forward what we know, why it matters, and what opportunities are attached to that knowledge. And then stop and say, ‘It’s yours,’” he says. That handoff invariably involves asking policymakers, and the public, to grapple with the tricky concept of scientific uncertainty. Fortunately, Alley says, Stephen Schneider excelled at explaining uncertainty, using techniques that Alley has made his own. “You have to say: ‘This is what we know. And this is as good as it can get. And this is as bad as it can get.’ And make that very clear to people,” he says. And though his inbox is sometimes the target of skeptics’ screeds, Alley’s preferred response is to engage. “There may be bad people out there, but I don’t talk to them,” he says. “Even the ones who call me names, when you can actually sit down with them, they care. Usually they’re arguing about things that are not really what they care about. What they really care about are their grandkids.” This program was recorded in front of a live audience at The Commonwealth Club of California on December 6, 2011 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

by Climate One