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Innovative Trends in Communicating Climate Science

As session leader Jamie Klein of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS) put it, the session “Innovative Trends in Communicating Climate Science” provided “tools, techniques, and food for thought” for addressing climate change in science centers and museums. All three museums that participated in the session use visualizations in different ways to help visitors understand this complex issue.

The first presenter, Eddie Goldstein of DMNS, described the program A Tale of Three Planets, which the museum presents on Science On a Sphere, sometimes with a presenter or facilitator and sometimes without. The presentation compares the climates of Earth, Venus, and Mars to help visitors understand how climate works on Earth. The museum’s research showed that the approach of comparing the three planets was helpful to visitors and that the visualizations were effective.

Patrick Hamilton of the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM), St. Paul, told attendees about four outreach programs driven by SMM’s Future Earth exhibition. The programs outline the effects of climate change on four different levels (global, Minnesota, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and SMM) and communicate what can be done to address the issue. All four programs communicate the message that Earth’s future will be determined by human decision making, whether by default or by design, and we should work for the future we want.

John Anderson of the New England Aquarium, Boston, talked about efforts to empower people to think and talk about climate change in more constructive ways. Currently much communication about climate change is contentious, he said, and it’s not considered a polite topic of conversation. Science centers can help to change that by letting people know why climate change matters, how it works, and how we can improve the situation. The aquarium does this using visualizations and dialogue with visitors.