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Articles by Sr. Editor Matthew Craft

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If you’ve ever furrowed your brow trying to remember what “mitigation” meant, you’re not alone.

Many people don’t understand key terms experts use to talk about climate change, according to a recent study from researchers affiliated with the United Nations Foundation and the University of Southern California. Some of the most difficult-to-understand words were mitigation, referring to efforts to reduce emissions to slow down climate change, and carbon-neutral, when there’s no net increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the air.

Experts in a given field might think that technical language is more precise or more efficient than commonplace alternatives. But subjecting normal people to obscure terms can leave them feeling confused and disengaged and can sometimes encourage a head-in-the-sand response. Everyone has heard the advice “know your audience.” That’s easier said than done, especially since many specialists may not even realize what counts as jargon, with their non-expert days long in the past.

“Some of the people in our study were really concerned about climate change,” said Wändi Bruine de Bruin, a professor of psychology and behavioral ... Read more

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