Researchers from the University of Newcastle have identified significant differences between the opinions of decision makers and scientists when it comes to thinking about climate change information.
Decision making under uncertainty, a new report funded by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), shows decision-makers may delay taking action on adaptation and risk planning until the uncertainties in climate change information are reduced – a situation which may never happen or may occur only after the optimal time for action has passed.
Some decision-makers, from politicians to farmers, are delaying taking action on adaptation and risk planning until the uncertainties in climate change information are reduced or disappear altogether.
For a start, most decision-makers (67%) thought that more certainty is necessary to enable effective decisions while only 29% of climate scientists agreed.
“But they’ll be waiting a long time,” report co-author Anthony Kiem told AAP on Wednesday.
He said most decision-makers expected more certainty on climate science within the next five to 10 years, so they were not taking urgent action now.
“Effectively they’re just hanging back and not making the decisions; they’re waiting for the perfect science,” Dr Kiem said.
He said more science communicators and education on both sides could help bridge the gap and ensure that important findings were not “lost in translation”.
The report calls for a national “knowledge-broking” program to help address the communication challenge, allowing scientists to understand what information is needed by governments and to make climate science information more useful for decision-makers.
Existing roles like that of Australia’s chief scientist were helpful but “ad hoc”, Dr Kiem said.