Simplifying the Science is Crucial to Tackling Climate Change by Tamanna Sengupta
The climate crisis affects all of humanity on an unimaginable scale. For decades from now, we will be reeling from the impact of poorly made decisions.
To me, that is what makes COP26 so important. It is our last chance to take concrete, meaningful action to save our only true home.
Photo Credit: Tamanna Sengupta
But, for a crisis that affects so many, the power of discussion, debate and deliberation is given to very few. And it is given to those who have everything to do with climate change and little to lose from it.
The people who are truly impacted by the rage of an unloved planet, remain stranded in shelters, in homes devastated by floods and in poverty and poor health. A fortunate few fights to have their voices heard, only to be dismissed as brainwashed youngsters with nothing better to do. The ‘experts’, people who have dedicated their lives to studying our planet have since long opined that the science - the truth of our planet’s destruction - is unequivocal. And it is this very science that is gatekept by our leaders, our policy-makers and our rich. It is the bar used to separate those who can sift through the jargon and decipher the charts.
I often wonder what the reason is for science and research to be seen as an exclusive language spoken by an elite few. More importantly, why climate science, a branch that needs to be understood by everyone everywhere, has new jargon added to its vocabulary every year.
We have created this code that the privileged few struggles to crack and the majority cannot dream to access.
And as we see people come close to solving it, we complicate it further. Climate science is a filter used to identify who is really worth listening to. And so, if you cannot speak in ‘net-zero' and ‘offsets’ or you cannot dedicate a fraction of your amassed wealth to the cause, you will not have a seat at the table.
A recent USC Dornsife Public Exchange-U.N. Foundation study found that the average non-scientific person is unable to understand complex terms used in crucial climate reports like the IPCC ARs. The few terms that were recognised were defined in a manner that had nothing to do with climate change. It is, therefore, not surprising that a majority of our global population is yet to awake to the dangers of climate change. And for those who are aware, it is easier to accept the equally jargon-filled targets proposed by leaders than to sift through detailed plans and demand accountability. Moreover, the predominance of the English language in climate research and gatekeeping of papers by publications makes the science inaccessible to a vast population.
COP26 is a crucial turning point in history. Leaders must be pushed to take the right decisions and must be held accountable by us for years to come. For this, we need to reach more people, educate them about the severity of the climate crisis and have them join the discussions. We need to involve vulnerable communities that have historically been ignored and continue to be sidelined in discussions, even as they face the worst of the crisis. We need to prepare our children with the knowledge and rigour to demand that their home and its people be taken care of. And to achieve all of this, we need to dissolve the complex climate science code and make it a universal language that enlightens and empowers people to take action.
Moving forward from COP26, I envision many more seats at the table reserved for the youth who will face the brunt of a changing planet. And a global podium with a row of microphones for the vulnerable communities to finally be heard. I see them empowered by an understanding of the unnecessarily complex research, addressing the leaders and the rich in their language - that of numbers and charts. I see us all working together, speaking a language understood by all, learning from the literature available to all, building a safer, cleaner and equitable future. And that begins with simplifying climate science, today.
About the Author
Tamanna Sengupta volunteers with Fridays For Future India and is an independent climate researcher. Her work has involved policy-making, offsetting, and temperature changes. Her most recent endeavor is an online blog to make climate science easier to understand. She hopes to contribute to educating everyone about the science behind climate change in their own language, to better understand the problem and demand action.