Questions and answers for academics

1. Why should academics take action on climate change?

Responsibilities to respond to climate change fall on everyone, but academics have special responsibilities. They occupy a privileged place in society, and their training makes them particularly well placed to understand how serious a problem climate change is and how inadequate current responses to it are. They also have more capacity to influence governments and other powerful actors than many other groups. Taking part in Global Climate Change Week (GCCW) is one minimal way of acting on these responsibilities. Doing so is also a way for academics to show solidarity with colleagues (especially but not exclusively climate scientists) whose work has been distorted or denigrated, and more generally to stand up for reason, science, and ethics against their detractors.

2. How does GCCW stimulate academics to get involved?

GCCW stimulates academics to get involved in part simply by providing an annual focus and prompt for such action, together with resources and ideas for activities academics can pursue. GCCW also makes many forms of participation available, including some that may appeal to academics who are reluctant to take part in many traditional forms of protest (such as demonstrations and marches). For one thing, such academics may take part simply by altering their programs to coordinate their teaching on some aspect of climate change during GCCW, perhaps with a few words to explain to their students why they are doing so.

3. Is it appropriate for academics to take such action? Doesn’t their standing in society depend on their impartiality?

No departure from impartiality is necessary. No academic will expected to do or say anything that doesn’t follow from their own reading of the evidence, as an academic. They will be taking part as academics, because of the respect for evidence and reason their training as academics has given them. Indeed, for the reasons given above, academics have special responsibilities to take such action.

4. Aren’t many academics too individualistic or apolitical to be willing to take part in such organised activities?

The fact that GCCW is such a flexible idea, one that gives individual academics enormous scope as to how they will take part, reduces these concerns considerably. As noted above, academics who are uncomfortable with any form of overt activism may take part simply by altering their programs to coordinate their teaching on some aspect of climate change. In addition, the focus provided by GCCW may encourage some academics to take stronger action than they would otherwise have taken, in the safety of solidarity with their colleagues.

5. Do all disciplines have something to say about climate change?

A great many do; if any don’t, members of those disciplines can take part by joining in the other activities.

6. Is there anywhere I can get good advice about communicating about climate change?

The Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) has produced an excellent guide for communicating about climate change. It contains a wealth of information on the subject, including psychological information useful for motivating people to care about climate change.

  • The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication site features many resources including peer-reviewed articles, research papers and videos and webinars. These focus on issues of communication and the goal of changing the public perception of climate change.
  • The Climate Access “Tips and Tools” page features a variety of great recommendations from experts on climate change communication. These recommendations are also highly accessible as they are provided in the form of easy-to-use tip sheets.
  • The Climate Outreach website provides a variety of great guides for communicating about climate change. It also provides a great database of research done on climate communication, a newsletter service, and an informative blog dealing with current issues relating to climate change.

There are more frequently asked questions here.