The Greatest Science Communication Failure in History

On Thursday June 16th, The Human Impacts Institute had our first online Impacts Hour; Communicating for Climate Action with author, entrepreneur, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes facilitated by Mark Schapiro, author of “Carbon Shock,”. Impacts Hours are curated conversations, where inspiring people share their knowledge, ideas, stories, and solutions in beautiful and engaging ways. Impacts hours are all about curating conversations with inspiring people, and both authors certainly fit the bill. Support for the online Impacts Hours was provided by Invoking The Pause - An Environmental Small Grants Program.

People from around the world were able to watch as Per Espen and Mark came together to explore the psychology of climate change communication and how we can all talk about global warming in a way that creates action and solutions, not further inaction and despair. While discussing his book, Mark talked about the hidden economic costs of fossil fuels. He points out that we know who’s responsible for climate change, yet there is very little traction even while we know what’s happening.

Switching gears to ask Per Espen to elaborate on this idea, the Norwegian author claimed that the stronger the science, the less people worry. “This is the greatest science communication failure in history,” he said, noting that people still think that scientists disagree on global warming. Per Espen writes in his book that there are five main barriers to confront when thinking about this issue: distance, doom, dissonance, denial, and identity. He also believes that we need new strategies when thinking about climate change, such as simple nudging, green growth, and a supportive framing rather than a catastrophe framing. If we think of it as a health or insurance issue, we may be able to communicate with better signals and stories.

Are humans inevitably short term or long term thinkers? How do actions or attitudes affect our impacts? Listen to find out!

Per Espen Stoknes is a psychologist with PhD in economics, based in Oslo, Norway. He is the head of the Norwegian Business School’s executive program on green energy and co-chairs the Center for Climate Strategy. He is author of the book, What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming : Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action. Learn more at:

Mark Schapiro is an award-winning investigative journalist who explores the intersection between the environment, economics, and international political power. Learn more at:

If you missed the first Impacts Hour, you will be able to find a recording of it on our YouTube page and on our website’s homepage - Join us for our second online "Impacts Hour", where we will unlock the mysteries of public opinion on climate change in the U.S. with Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, Senior Research Scientist at the Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. The second Online Impacts Hour will be Thursday, July 28th, 2016 from 12-1pm Eastern and we hope to see you there!

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