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Communicating Sea Level Rise

The 38th Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released part two of a three part report this evening. A press conference discussing the latest study was transmitted live from Yokohama, Japan, on UStream, a live internet video service. Viewers were able to send e-mailed questions to the event for immediate answers by panel members.

Communicating timely developments in understanding sea level rise is not difficult. At the same time, it is essential. In this era of a multitude of communication options, releasing information via diverse tools is key to public knowledge. Gone are the days when eyes are turned toward television network coverage as the sole source of live events. (Not surprisingly, despite its importance, the event was not aired live on any American network).

IPCC scientists are not the only experts seeking to provide information in innovative ways.

Last week, the Florida Public Health Institute released an important report, entitled "Minimizing the Health Effects of Climate Change in the South Florida Region: A Health Impact Assessment."

Included within the many substantial recommendations for dealing with public health concerns complicated by a changing environment is an important suggestion: "Develop early warning systems/social media apps informing residents on high tides and overall sea level rise awareness; also road signage."

These ideas are excellent. Now let's ramp up diverse public dissemination strategies.

Despite wide-spread media coverage in 2013 to date, most of the general public and policy makers at all governmental levels do not understand sea level rise and the consequences it threatens. An extra emphasis on getting the message out effectively is just as important as the science underlying the information.

Since education about surging seas is crucial to societal adaptation, using tools such as UStream video coverage for interactive live and re-broadcast events, social media apps, internet radio, text message alert systems, e-books, up-to-date signage and other creative communication tools is needed to reach media consumers across all possible platforms.

Merely issuing written reports in PDF format is not effective. Clarity, creativity and speed in transmitting credible urgent messages from experts on this matter is needed for public and governmental consumption.

The IPCC press conference can be seen here.

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