USC researchers published a study finding U.S. residents struggle to understand terminology associated with climate change.

The research team included researchers from USC Dornsife Public Exchange and the United Nations Foundation published in a special edition of Climate Change. The study was called Climate Change Communication and the IPCC and concluded that many terms used by climate researchers are complex and easily misunderstood, and there is a need for simpler, alternative language.

“Scientists need to replace jargon with everyday language to be understood by a lay audience,” a survey respondent suggested.

A qualitative researcher form USC Dornsife’s Center for Economic and Social Research recruited 20 participants with diverse backgrounds and views on climate change to rank eight terms used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The terms used included:

— mitigation;

— carbon neutral;

— unprecedented transition;

— tipping point;

— sustainable development;

— carbon dioxide removal;

— adaptation;

— abrupt change.

Participants concluded “mitigation” was the most difficult term to understand, and “abrupt change” the easiest. They were asked to suggest alternative language, for which they came up with “a change not seen before” instead of “unprecedented transition,” and “too late to fix anything,” for “tipping point.”

“In several cases, the respondents proposed simple, elegant alternatives to existing language,” Wandi Bruine de Bruin, the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “It reminded us that even thought climate change may be a complex issue, there is no need to make it even more complex by using complicated words.”

Previously published research found limiting the amount of sentences and using words with no more than two syllables and writing for 13-year-old readers helps increase comprehension.

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