Lost in translation? Interpretations of the probability phrases used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in China and the UK
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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.
KeywordsNumerical Range Natural Interpretation Chinese Participant Uncertainty Information Tackle Climate Change
We thank Melinda Soh, Jia Li, Lingxiao Guo, Yanmei Zhang, Qin Zhang, Qi Guan, Lina Bai and Zhen Xiao for assistance with data collection, Daniel Chu for assistance with translation, Tobias Gerstenberg for assisting with graphs and Nigel Harvey and Matthias Gobel for comments on a previous version of the manuscript.
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