Celcius 451

Earth melting into water Image credit NASA

In Ray Bradbury’s 1953 science fiction novel, Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature that ignites books. Americans could almost feel that heat, especially anyone experiencing summer in the Midwest. But what if Bradbury had named his novel Celsius 232.778? Not as gripping? Why? Because most American readers had no point of reference.

The same is occurring with our environment. The world’s leading climate scientists recently released a report that the Earth will suffer severe damage from climate change. But they report climate temperatures in Celsius. To have the appropriate response to this devastating development, we recommend scientists use similes, metaphors and analogies.

Do you use jargon when speaking to outsiders about your products or services? If you assume they know what you’re talking about—you could be wrong. And if your descriptions don’t connect in terms of what your audience understands, they will politely nod and change the mental channel. Katherine Hayhoe, climate scientist, says that “If you run a fever of 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit, you feel lousy. And that’s exactly what our planet is facing—2.7 degrees more.” To spur action, make your communications specific and relatable.

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