“We mortals do not understand you.” That’s the heartfelt cry from former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, pleading with scientists to use everyday language to help counter growing public mistrust.
Figueres was giving one explanation of why scientists are struggling to get their message across to a sceptical public at a major conference in Vienna this week.
Just days after a historic March for Science in Washington, the experts owned up to failures including remoteness and condescension — and operating in an “echo chamber of like minded people”.
“I think it’s the conceitedness, in a way,” said Heike Langenberg, chief editor of the journal Nature Geoscience. “The problem is that scientists have not spoken at an even level with people who are out there,” she said on the sidelines of a European Geosciences Union (EGU) meeting of more than 14,000 experts in 22 fields. “They have tended to give long speeches and not listen.... I think they have underestimated intelligence and overestimated knowledge.”