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Climate-Change Project Reaches Spanish-Language News Media

Nobel laureate Mario Molina helped launch a second phase of the AAAS What We Know climate-change communication project on 11 July, by appearing on Nuestra Tele Noticias 24 Horas (NTN24), which reaches 8.5 million mostly Spanish-speaking viewers.

In an interview with journalist Luis Quevedo, Molina, renowned for his role in helping to determine the causes of the hole in the Earth's ozone layer, compared the work of elucidating that threat to communicating climate change. "We scientists felt that we had a certain responsibility, if we thought we were facing a serious problem, to communicate that to society," Molina told Quevedo. 

Dr. Molina participates in a Spanish-language interview on NTN24.

A backgrounder on the AAAS What We Know project, first released in English in March 2014, conveys three key points: First, it emphasizes that climate change is real — a large majority of climate experts agree that human-caused climate change is happening. Second, we are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts. Third, there is much we can do to prevent climate-change impacts, and the sooner we respond, the better off we will be.

In a statement announcing the English-language version of the backgrounder, project co-chair James McCarthy said, "Even among members of the broader public who already know about the evidence for climate change and what is causing it, some do not know the degree to which many climate scientists are concerned about the risks of possibly rapid and abrupt climate change."

"That's something we are dedicated to discussing with multiple audiences," said McCarthy, who is the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard University. Diana Wall, distinguished professor of biology and the director of Colorado State University's School of Global Environmental Sustainability, also co-chaired the What We Know project, which was chaired by Molina, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

By late June, the What We Know website had served more than 95,000 visitors. The report's initial release generated 442 media placements in English, including an editorial and several news articles in The New York Times, and news coverage by The Guardian, NBC Nightly News, the Associated Press, and many other outlets.

With funding from The Rockefeller Family Fund, AAAS has since translated the What We Know backgrounder into Spanish and is creating a video interview with Molina to help reach the 54 million Hispanics who make up about 17% of the U.S. population, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Most Hispanics in the United States come from countries — Mexico, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Columbia — that will be especially hard-hit by climate change. Within the United States, many Hispanics live in regions that are also particularly vulnerable, including California, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida.

In any case, Molina said, climate change should not be considered a far-off threat.

"We're trying to eliminate some myths, and one is that only our grandchildren have to worry about climate change. That just isn't so," said Molina in his interview with Quevedo. "We are already experiencing very clear climate-change impacts: extreme weather events, floods, droughts, and some hurricanes."

Another myth, Molina said, is that weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels is so costly that it would devastate economic growth. "Analyses by very serious, very meticulous economists tell us that the cost is actually very modest, just 1% or 2% of the gross domestic product of the planet.

"Clearly, that's a lot less than the cost of climate-change impacts."