Before I write a scientific paper, I always try to identify: (1) my main message [MM], in 25 words or less, and (2) my target audience [TA]. Doing this helps focus the ‘story’ of the manuscript on a key point. Papers that try to present multiple messages are typically confusing and/or too long for busy researchers to read. It also dictates the background and specialist terminology that the reader might be safely assumed to understand, as well as guiding the choice of journal that I will submit to. For instance, a paper written for Nature requires more general context setting than one sent to Wildlife Research.
However, it occurred to me that I’ve never tried to define the main message of the BraveNewClimate.com blog, nor really reflected on who the chief audience is. So let’s try.
In reality, both have evolved over time. Back in late 2008 – early 2009, when the blog (and my thinking on climate change policy) was in its infancy, it would have read something this:
2009 MM: Communicate the scientific evidence for anthropogenic global warming to the general public and policy makers, and advocate the need for, and urgency of, effective mitigation.
2009 TA: People seeking understanding of past climate change, current/future impacts, and the basis of modelled forecasts – all explained in relatively straightforward terms. A secondary target audience was those who were confused by, or enamored of, the repeated assertions of ‘the sceptics’.
Although I was proud to have developed the website on this scientific and philosophical foundation, neither of the above MM or TA are appropriate to BNC’s central purpose in 2012. So let’s try again.
2012 MM: To advocate an evidence-based approach to eliminating global fossil fuel emissions, based on a pragmatic and rational mix of nuclear and other low-carbon energy sources.
2012 TA: Environmentalists who disregard or oppose nuclear energy, and instead believe that renewables are sufficient (or that continuing to rely on fossil fuels is a rational energy policy).
The main message changed because I became progressively more interested in educating people on practical solutions to the problems of global change, rather than preaching doom-and-gloom. This shift in purpose was not because I don’t still consider the impacts of climate change to be incredibly serious and the evidence (ever increasingly) compelling — I do! It’s rather that I found the generic message of: “This is really bad, we must do something!” to be ineffectual, unappealing, and frankly, depressing. Besides, there are other sites that do this very well, so I now tend to leave it in their capable hands.
Instead, I became interested (okay, obsessed is a better word) with grasping and communicating the high-level issues associated with which low-carbon energy solutions will work most effectively at displacing fossil fuels and thus ‘solving’ climate change, at scale, in time, and within reasonable costs.