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Getting Through on Global Warming: How to Rewire Climate Change Communication.

Tuesday March 31st, 4:00pm - 5:30pm | E51-115

Send questions for the panelists in advance or input for the discussion to

Why do most of us recognize that climate change is real, yet few take action? Why do some not recognize it as real? By exploring the roadblocks to effective
climate change communication, this diverse panel of faculty and media experts will unpack why our brains are wired to ignore a monumental threat to society. And they will ask, can we recast the problem? What is the role of science in the communication challenge? How and why has this particular issue changed the public's perception of scientists? Drawing on the MIT community’s input to the Climate Conversation Idea Bank and through live Q&A, the panel will identify and examine communication strategies that MIT and others can employ to shift the global climate debate and to inspire action. 

John Durant conducts sociological research on the public dimensions of science and technology. He is especially interested in public perceptions of science, the role of public consultation in science and technology policy-making, and the role of informal media in facilitating public engagement with science and technology.  He is the founding editor of the journal Public Understanding of Science, and author and editor of numerous books, essay collections and articles on the history and the public understanding of science.

Kerry Emanuel is a climate scientist who has specialized in atmospheric convection, and on tropical cyclones. He is interested in fundamental properties of moist convection, the nature of the diurnal cycle of convection over land, and the mechanisms acting to intensify hurricanes. His book What We Know About Climate Change is an authoritative account of the basic science of global warming and how the current consensus has emerged, written for a general audience. In 2006 he was named one of Time magazine’s “Time 100: The People Who Shape Our World.”

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Susan Hassol
is a climate change communicator, analyst, and author known for her ability to make complex science issues accessible to policymakers and the public. She was Senior Science Writer on all three U.S. National Climate Assessments, Editor of the Frequently Asked Questions for the 2007 IPCC Report, and Lead Author of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment’s synthesis report. She has testified before Congress, appeared on national radio and television shows, wrote HBO’s global warming documentary, Too Hot Not To Handle, and was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for her “exceptional contributions in the area of science communication. 

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Judy Layzer is interested in how ideas—ranging from scientific claims to notions about the appropriate role of government—shape environmental policy and politics, and the efficacy of different approaches to environmental policymaking. She has written about the role of science in U.S. environmental politics, and the impact of conservative ideas and activism on environmental politics and policy. Her current research focuses on the politics of urban sustainability and on the effectiveness of urban sustainability policies—from composting to green infrastructure to transportation and urban agriculture. Her books include The Environmental Case: Translating Values into Policy, and Open for Business: Conservatives’ Opposition to Environmental Regulations.

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Tom Levenson has written four books on science and the history of science, including Ice Time: Climate Science and Life on Earth. He is Director of the MIT Graduate Program on Science Writing and has also produced, directed, written, and or executive produced several science documentaries. He wrote and produced the “Back to the Beginning” episode for the Public Broadcasting Service mini-series Origins, for which he received the 2005 National Academies Communication Award. Prior to Origins, he produced the “Dome” episode in the PBS series Building Big, honored by a 2001 George Foster Peabody Award. He blogs at The Inverse Square Blog and Balloon Juice and his short-form writing has appeared in a wide range of newspapers, magazines and digital publications.

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Chris Mooney writes about the environment at the Washington Post as part of the Wonkblog team. He previously worked at Mother Jones, where he wrote about science and the environment and hosted a weekly podcast. Chris spent a decade prior to that as a freelance writer, podcaster and speaker, with his work appearing in Wired, Harper’s Slate, Legal Affairs, the Los Angeles Times, The Post, and The Boston Globe, among others. Chris has published four books about science and climate change, including Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle over Global Warming. He was a MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellow in 2010.

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Nate Nickerson leads MIT’s central communications strategy as Vice President for Communications. He has led the MIT News Office for the past five years; the website MIT News reaches hundreds of thousands of readers beyond the MIT community each month. He coordinates Institute-wide communications with a focus on telling MIT’s story to the world, creating connections among members of MIT’s global community, and connecting MIT’s online learners —and those who wish to help MIT solve great challenges — with each other and with the Institute.

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Drazen Prelec studies the psychology and neuroscience of decision-making, with a focus on problems that involve risky choice, time discounting, self-control, and decisions with economic or moral consequences. He leads the MIT Sloan Neuroeconomics Lab, a multidisciplinary research center studying problems at the intersection of economics, management and cognitive neuroscience. Areas of research include self-deception, consumer behavior, and non-verifiable subjective judgments such as forecasting of the remote future, political events and developments.