Connected for COP26: Communicating Climate Change

Hannah Mallinson, Science Engagement Manager on behalf of the Royal Meteorological Society

The Royal Meteorological Society is the UK’s Professional and Learned Society for weather and climate. With a core team of 18, we work together to strengthen the science and raise awareness of the importance of weather and climate, support meteorological professionals and inspire enthusiasts.

In many ways 2021 has already and will continue to be a key year for climate. The UK’s new climate target to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035 was put into law in June, the country’s Third Climate Change Risk Assessment evidence report was published in July, the highly anticipated sixth IPCC report on the Physical Science is due in August, COP26 is taking place in Glasgow in November and the global stocktake of the Paris Agreement begins, running until 2023. Whether at home or abroad we’ve also witnessed numerous extreme weather events where records have been broken (in some instances by large margins) and in the case of June’s Western North American heatwave, a rapid attribution study has shown the event to be virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.

Given the amount of climate milestones in the calendar for 2021, the Society has spent the last year and a half planning relevant content and activities, especially in relation to COP26. We’ve been commissioning several climate briefing papers from leading experts in the field, which clearly and concisely explain important aspects of climate science. Topics include tipping points, how climate change will affect UK weather extremes and what an ice-free Arctic could mean for European weather. All the papers will be published in the run up to the international climate conference to help inform the public, policy makers and media. We also want to give users of the IPCC physical science report a chance to come together, discuss the main findings and consider what they mean for the ongoing development of our response to climate change (and therefore COP26) and so we’ve been busy planning for our virtual event on 15 September – The 6th Major IPCC Science Report and its Implications. Come November, as an UNFCCC observer organisation, the Society will be attending COP26 in both the Blue and Green Zones and delivering daily content to members, schools and the public across all our channels.

Another important area of our work on the road to COP26 has been supporting other organisations on how to communicate climate change. Over the last three years the Society has been working alongside broadcasters, climate scientists and other academics to deliver climate change communication training for broadcast meteorologists, producers and journalists from ITV, BBC and Sky. The courses aim to refresh and deepen the knowledge about climate change, enabling teams to develop a wider understanding of climate science, the causes of climate change, the links to extreme weather events, the social and economic impacts of climate change and how best to communicate all of this. Currently, the Society is supporting ITV in the run up to COP26 with refresher sessions and monthly updates, with the aim to help build confidence amongst the presenters and reporters and ultimately support more factual reporting about climate change.

Read the rest of the blog series here.