Copenhagen Climate Congress: John Ashton

Copenhagen, Denmark March 10, 2009

Repeatedly sounded was the ‘what we have here is a failure to communicate‘ theme. John Ashton addressed this concern at a press conference at the Climate Congress:

“Words mean different things. The word ‘uncertainty’ to a politician often means, come back and tell me when you know whether this a problem or not and that’s when I’ll look into it. Uncertainty to a scientist often mean there’s a signal, but there’s an error, an uncertainty in the amplitude of that signal. We don’t know quite how big that is, it may be four and it may be six, and there are plenty of people in the political world, who are quite happy to abuse the rigor that scientists bring to the ways in which they communicate, to serve political purposes which are not necessarily those which the communicators were intending to serve. Politics is a shark infested sea in that sense. My conclusion is, the more effort that people put into understanding not just what they are trying to say, but how it will be heard, how it might be manipulated and made mischief out of, the better the communication will be. Because in the end, we need a much better sense in our society of the urgency of this problem – we haven’t begun to close the gap between what the climate tells us we need to do and what we feel we’re capable of doing.”


See the full text of John Ashton’s plenary address.

Other speakers also contributed to the ‘failure to communicate theme’, including: Professor Lord Nicolas Stern, March 12, “One of the reasons they [the economists] got it wrong is because you [the scientists] didn’t tell them loudly and clearly enough”