Climatic Change

, Volume 121, Issue 2, pp 415–425 | Cite as

Lost in translation? Interpretations of the probability phrases used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in China and the UK

  • Adam J. L. Harris
  • Adam Corner
  • Juemin Xu
  • Xiufang Du
Letter

Abstract

Tackling climate change is a global challenge and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the organisation charged with communicating the risks, dangers and mechanisms underlying climate change to both policy makers and the general public. The IPCC has traditionally used words (e.g., ‘likely’) in place of numbers (‘70 % chance’) to communicate risk and uncertainty information. The IPCC assessment reports have been published in six languages, but the consistency of the interpretation of these words cross-culturally has yet to be investigated. In two studies, we find considerable variation in the interpretation of the IPCC’s probability expressions between the Chinese and British public. Whilst British interpretations differ somewhat from the IPCC’s prescriptions, Chinese interpretations differ to a much greater degree and show more variation. These results add weight to continuing calls for the IPCC to make greater use of numbers in its forecasts.

Supplementary material

10584_2013_975_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (39 kb)
ESM 1(PDF 39 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam J. L. Harris
    • 1
  • Adam Corner
    • 2
    • 3
  • Juemin Xu
    • 1
  • Xiufang Du
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain SciencesUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.School of PsychologyCardiff UniversityCardiffUK
  3. 3.Climate Outreach and Information NetworkOxfordUK
  4. 4.School of PsychologyShandong Normal UniversityJinanChina

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