Communications about uncertainty in scientific climate-related findings: a qualitative systematic review

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenÜbersichtsarbeitenForschung

Authors

  • Astrid Kause
  • Wandi Bruine Bruin
  • Samuel Domingos
  • Neha Mittal
  • Jason Lowe
  • Fai Fung

We undertake a systematic review of peer-reviewed literature to arrive at recommendations for shaping communications about uncertainty in scientific climate-related findings. Climate communications often report on scientific findings that contain different sources of uncertainty. Potential users of these communications are members of the general public, as well as decision makers and climate advisors from government, business and non-governmental institutions worldwide. Many of these users may lack formal training in climate science or related disciplines. We systematically review the English-language peer-reviewed empirical literature from cognitive and behavioral sciences and related fields, which examines how users perceive communications about uncertainty in scientific climate-related findings. We aim to summarize how users' responses to communications about uncertainty in scientific climate-related findings are associated with characteristics of the decision context, including climate change consequences and types of uncertainty as well as user characteristics, such as climate change beliefs, environmental worldviews, political ideology, numerical skills, and others. We also aimed to identify what general recommendations for communications about uncertainty in scientific climate-related findings can be delineated. We find that studies of communications about uncertainty in scientific climate-related findings substantially varied in how they operationalized uncertainty, as well as how they measured responses. Studies mostly focused on uncertainty stemming from conflicting information, such as diverging model estimates or experts, or from expressions of imprecision such as ranges. Among other things, users' understanding was improved when climate communications about uncertainty in scientific climate-related findings were presented with explanations about why climate information was uncertain, and when ranges were presented with lower and upper numerical bounds. Users' understanding also improved if they expressed stronger beliefs about climate change, or had better numerical skills. Based on these findings, we provide emerging recommendations on how to best present communications about uncertainty in scientific climate-related findings; and we identify research gaps.

OriginalspracheEnglisch
Aufsatznummer053005
ZeitschriftEnvironmental Research Letters
Jahrgang16
Ausgabenummer5
Anzahl der Seiten20
ISSN1748-9318
DOIs
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 05.2021
Extern publiziertJa

DOI