Climate change is creating two problems: One is understanding and addressing its impact on the world. The other is convincing large swaths of the public that it is a reality.
In an effort to spur people to take action to prevent ecological disaster, researchers with the new UC Merced Center for Climate Communications are studying the best ways to spread the message.
“It’s crucial to clearly convey short-term, immediate risks when it comes to climate issues,” said professor Teenie Matlock, who’s with the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Art and heads the center, which is part of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute.
“It is also important to realize that the audience of climate messages is diverse, with stakeholders from different cultural and educational backgrounds,” Matlock said.
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Climate variability and change are the most difficult issues the world is facing and will continue to face for the foreseeable future, Institute Interim Director Martha Conklin said. Twenty-six percent of U.S. adults disagree there’s solid evidence the Earth is getting warmer, according to the Pew Research Center.
“Our mission is research to fill critical knowledge gaps,” Conklin said, “and these issues are at the cutting edge of research and integrate across many disciplines.”
Researchers with the new center are trying to understand how language impacts the perception of climate-related science in America – one of the country’s most divisive, challenging issues, even though more than 97 percent of scientists agree unprecedented climate change is already happening.
Senior balances athletics, academics with agility
Growing up in Bangkok, Surabordin “Ai” Prachumsri knew what he wanted to do at an early age.
Now that he has wrapped up his final year at UC Merced, that hasn’t changed for the 22-year-old. “My mom is an anthropologist, and I always liked science as a kid,” said Prachumsri.
“It’s one of the things I’m really good at, so I better stick with it,” he said about his knack for science.
But there was something he didn’t expect would become part of his college experience. It wasn’t until he moved to the United States that Prachumsri began playing volleyball as a freshman in high school in Torrance, where he also played soccer.
He stuck with volleyball, and the sport became a big part of his undergraduate experience at UC Merced.
Prachumsri says his best memory is getting the first home win on a varsity team (a 3-1 victory over NCAA Division II Holy Names University). Volleyball has also allowed him to see other parts of the country, including trips to Colorado, Texas, Kansas and Arizona.
Prachumsri was recently awarded the UC Merced Intercollegiate Athletics Bobcat Award. He juggled sports and academics while maintaining a 3.93 GPA as a bioengineering major. For Prachumsri, its part of a routine he’s kept for years.
“It’s a lot easier for me than for some people,” he said. “I was already spending a lot of time at the gym.”
“Ai is one of those rare individuals that you wish you could have in your program every season,” said David Noble, associate director of Recreation and Athletics, and the head coach of the men’s volleyball team. “He is an intelligent student, a great teammate and an outstanding person.”
Something else Prachumsri didn’t anticipate – an extended stay in the United States. “My original plan was to come to study and go back to Thailand,” he said. “But I may stick around a little longer.”
Now, he says he plans to start applying for medical school.