Detecting, understanding and communicating climate change


Debates on climate change, in particular its causes, consequences and mitigation strategies are omnipresent around the globe. At the same time, today's (social) media are forced to produce exciting headlines and stories to attract an audience in times of an enormous oversupply in information. Both trends together have the potential to repeatedly generate substantial amounts of misunderstandings and misinformation, also called fake news. The way to get out of this predicament - to turn fake into facts and ideologically charged discussions into valuable discussions - is enhanced knowledge about the key aspects of the Earth's climate system and enhanced climate change communication skills. 

Our offers:

  Increase your knowledge about Earth's climate system and climate history. 

  Get an overview and discuss the most recent climate change scenarios and their limitations.

  Enhance your skills for participating in and contributing to climate change debates at all levels (family to global politics).

Special lecture features:

  Experts from different disciplines

  Mixed lecture format with many interactive elements

  Inputs from media experts from the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation)

P - Presentation , D - Discussion, WS - Workshop, CTNL - Connection to next lecture

Core lectures

Overview and Introduction

P&D: 21.10.2019, 17:00-18:30; Gina Moseley, Lindsey Nicholson, Kurt Nicolussi, Wolfgang Gurgiser


Saying In this introduction, we will set the stage for the following lectures and introduce some basic disambiguation like

# what is climate and when are we talking about climate change?

# who is studying climate and climate change and how?


Block 1 - Overview of the climate system

P&D: 28.10.2020, 17:00-18:30; Lindsey Nicholson, Wolfgang Gurgiser


ClimateSystemBefore diving into the history of Earth's climate, this block will introduce the physical basics of the climate system and how it works. This includes:

# The components of the climate system: atmosphere, ocean, land, ice, vegetation

# How do the components interact with each other?

# Climate forcing: what factors cause the climate to change?

# How does the climate respond to changes in the forcing?


CTNL: To enhance our knowledge about the climate system it is necessary to extent the extremely short period when instrumental records of atmospheric variables are available into the past. 


Block 2 - Physical basics of past climate reconstruction methods

P&D: 04.11.2020, 17:00-18:30; Prof. Gina Moseley, Kurt Nicolussi



How can we investigate past climate evolution and variability? This block focusses on principles, materials and approaches for the reconstruction of past climate stages.

# stratigraphy and dating

# climate archives and proxies, reconstruction of past climate – and their uncertainties

# modeling


CTNL: Applying the methods to reconstruct the climate of the past


Block 3 - Climate of the past I

P&D: 11.11.2020, 17:00-18:30; Gina Moseley



This block will look at how the climate has changed throughout geological history but with a particular emphasis on the role that CO2 has played during this time. This includes:

# The causes of naturally changing CO2 and how that has affected Earth's temperature 

# Natural climate variability during the most recent geology period

# Periods of abrupt climate change and warmer temperatures in the past that can be used as analogues for the future 


CTNL: From different general states of the climate system to the current general "settings"


Block 4 - Climate of the past II

P&D: 18.11.2020, 17:00-18:30; Kurt Nicolussi



Within this session we focus on the current interglacial, called Holocene, and especially the last 10.000 years.

# what do we know about the evolution of climate in the last 10.000 years?

# what are drivers for short and long-term variability during the Holocene ?

# where are we today in relation to Holocene’s climate ?


CTNL: Learning from the past to assess where we are today


Block 5 - Present day and near future climate (change)

P&D: 25.11.2020, 17:00-18:30; Lindsey Nicholson



With this course block, we have reached the present and will proceed into the future, addressing the following questions:

# The instrumental record: how did the climate change during the past century?

# Humans and climate change: Ho do we know it's us? How can we distinguish between natural variations and human-induced changes?

# What can we say about future climate change: sea-level, glaciers and ice sheets, extremes


CTNL: Knowledge is common goods and should be shared.


Block 6 - Climate change communication I

P&D: 02.12.2020, 17:00-18:30; Lindsey Nicholson, Wolfgang Gurgiser


CommunicationProviding successful climate change communication requires to strongly simplify and summarize scientific contents for most target groups and settings. Furthermore, language has to be as simple as possible which is usually challenging for scientists that are used to technical terms in their daily communication. Within this lecture, we will

# Discuss general aspects of climate change communication based on recent literature

# Prepare - based on the previous discussions - a checklist to be used for upcoming climate change communication of the involved students     


CTNL: Best preparation of climate change communication is half of the story. Having an idea what journalists need to do their job as good as possible is the rest of it and equally important.


Block 7 - Climate change communication II

WS: 09.12.2020,17:00-19:00; Representative ORF Tirol, Wolfgang Gurgiser

This lecture will be held in German language. 


Interview - Bild von Tumisu auf Pixabay Media experts know best which formats they have to provide to successfully reach and keep the respective audience. Scientists have to accept these concepts more or less BUT - when being aware of them - they can adapt their communication in a way that it meets journalists' needs as much as possible without compromising their message. Within this lecture

# an expert from the ORF will give us background information on concepts and rules for (climate change) communication in their media channels (television, radio, web)

Block 8 - Conclusions and Feedback

WS: 15.01.2021, 13:00-17:00 if Corona allows @ Seehof; Gina Moseley, Lindsey Nicholson, Kurt Nicolussi, Wolfgang Gurgiser

ReflectingThis lecture will touch a broad range of topics and methods. Additionally, participating students have diverse scientific backgrounds and knowledge to contribute to the lecture. Thus, this final workshop aims to

# reflect & summarize the lecture contents and discussion/activity outputs

# discuss/define open questions

# evaluate the lecture from the students' perspective 


Please find further details and lecture rooms @ LFU:online   



2019/20 Lecture Output:

 Learning Trio 1: Rising CO2 and plant growth

Learning Trio 3: Sea Level Rise

Learning Trio 4: Potential Climate Trajectories of the Earth System

Learning Trio 5: Aviation emission & Carbon offsetting

Learning Trio 6: Uncertainties in meltwater from Greenland

Learing Trio 7: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Learning Trio 8: Ocean acidification


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