Spotlight on SciComm: Chai Qimin

Dr. Chai Qimin shares his thoughts on influencing international climate economics and policy.

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Name: Chai Qimin
Position/affiliation: Chief of International Cooperation Department, National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation (NCSC)
Research area: Climate change economics and policy, green finance and carbon markets

What first motivated your involvement in outreach and science communication? How have you decided which audiences to engage with?

The sense of mission. Studying global climate change is work about human beings, the impacts of what we have had, and what mitigation and adaptation actions we can do now and in the future. We thought we made big progress in 2015 in Paris after a long march since 1990 with 196 Parties. But then President Donald Trump and his colleagues appeared, and the story has become totally different. We can see there are still many climate skeptics and deniers nowadays, and the consensus of scientific knowledge and political will is still the problem. So, more outreach and communication are required. All of the stakeholders – including governments, industries, academics and the public – should be involved. We need solid consensus.

The theme for the 2017 Earth Day is ‘Environmental & Climate Literacy’. What does ‘literacy’ mean to you? What (or who) do you imagine when you think of a ‘science-literate’ citizen?

In my view, "literacy" means the unity of knowing and doing. I am promoting a massive ‘green initiative’ in China. Not only the heavy industries or big companies, but also every citizen should be involved in the process to be green and low-carbon. The sharing economy is now very popular in China – such as Moblike, Ant Financial Forest – which brings small and beautiful changes to the world, and together hand-in-hand makes a big difference.

Which arguments or approaches have you found most effective in communicating the realities of climate change, or other pressing environmental issue, to those in doubt?

Showcasing case studies. The reality itself is more persuasive to those in doubt. But you cannot wake up a man, like Trump, who is pretending to sleep.

What has been your most rewarding experience in environmental or climate communication?

You should communicate in a positive and constructive way, not the opposite. For example, as a big developing country, China worries about the economic impacts of ambitious climate policies, but the decision-makers are interested in new growth points, new employments and air pollution control, so we offered the numbers on potential investments, employments, co-benefits on air quality and health. That really makes sense, as we answered their concerns, which facilitates the decision-making.

Alexa McKay

Associate Editor, Nature Communications

Alexa has been an ecology editor at Nature Communications since May 2016. She earned a PhD from the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia, investigating the consequences of migration for parasite resistance in monarch butterflies. Alexa previously worked at the University of Puget Sound, the US Geological Survey, and Washington University in St. Louis on projects related to animal behaviour, wildlife conservation, landscape ecology, and disease ecology.