Communicating Science to Society in the Face of Deep Uncertainty and the Threat of Manufactured Doubt

17 December 2014, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Moscone North - Rooms 130-131

Ticketing Type:

Open To All

Event For:

All Registrants

To make effective and robust choices, decision makers must understand inherent uncertainties surrounding scientific knowledge –  including “known unknowns,” or deep uncertainties.  Yet, because many non-scientists perceive uncertainty as a lack of knowledge, communicating uncertainty to the public can lead to misunderstanding of core scientific conclusions.  To add to the confusion, some special interest groups misrepresent uncertainty to manufacture doubt, while others may minimize it to highlight particular conclusions. Both means of mishandling uncertainty can lead to high risks to society’s health, economy, and environment.

This panel will explore the challenges and opportunities for communicating the deep uncertainty often embedded in scientific conclusions, especially when dealing with charged science topics such as climate change and GMOs.  Does the gap between an expectation of no uncertainty and the recognition that science always comes with uncertainty create a valley of death for dealing with critical environmental crises?  How can scientists and science communicators best bridge this chasm?


Andrew Freedman, Senior Climate Reporter for Mashable.

Katharine Hayhoe, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science; and Director, Climate Science Center,  Texas Tech University, Lubbock.

Michael Oppenheimer, Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School and Department of Geosciences, Princeton University.

Gernot Wagner, lead senior economist, Environmental Defense Fund.


Amy Luers, Director, Climate Change, Skoll Global Threats Fund.