Readying for a new round of concern and questions about climate change

A draft of the latest report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was recently leaked to news outlets, and partners may want to prepare for  the possibilities that will come with this spike in coverage, both now around the draft and later around the final version.As a quick recap, a leaked copy of the draft report made its way into the hands of various news agencies, and as of today (August 20, 2013), stories are appearing in outlets around the world.  While most have focused their coverage on the way in which the final version of the report is expected to convey how, as The New York Times says, the report emphasizes that, “human activity is almost certainly behind most temperature in increases in recent decades,” others, such as The Wall Street Journal, are instead trying to stir the proverbial pot by writing that the report, “will likely reignite the fire that was lit when the organization’s last publication was mired in controversy,” and still others, such as the BBC are urging caution, noting that the IPCC, “has warned against drawing too many conclusions” until the final version is released.

For aquariums and zoos, what does this all mean?

It certainly can’t hurt to prepare for a few additional questions in response to any mention of climate change, or even consider starting a conversation about ocean acidification, while thinking about how best to answer those in light of what the communication research tells us. Central among those lessons is that while a few skeptics may scream or shout, the majority of visitors are likely to be less vocal but nonetheless concerned about climate change, and most interested in learning from us about the impacts on specific animals, as well as ways they can, in their view, continue to be part of the solution. And as much as some guests might want to engage in conversations about climate models, or the specifics within the IPCC report, a word of caution that this debate, sadly, long ago left the realm of science and went into the world of politics, and therein unlikely to play to our perceived strengths.

So a heads up!