Guest essay by James Sawhill
h/t to Robin for alerting us to CRED
Effective communication in matters of uncertainty, such as catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, has been elevated to high art, actually higher education. The Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, (CRED at Columbia University) , through the imaginations of their behavioral psychologists, morphed uncertainty into “strategic use of uncertainty” . With a single stroke, they claim a double win of formulating valuable strategies for delivering climate claims and placing the burden of falsifiable proof upon CAGW skeptics.
Through these techniques, dire futures can be projected as news certainties and otherwise limited implications of post-doc research can promote social consequences with just the requisite nod to “global warming”.
In addition to CRED, NSF has funded three other centers under this program:
Arizona State University Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC)
Carnegie Mellon University Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making (CEDM) and
The University of Chicago Center for Robust Decision Making on Climate and Energy Policy (RDCEP) 
“CRED was established under the National Science Foundation Program Decision Making Under Uncertainty (DMUU). The DMUU program supports research that advances our fundamental understanding of decision making under uncertainty for climate change and its related long-term environmental risks”. 
A 2010, National Science Foundation, 5 year grant of US $6,498,750.00  to CRED at Columbia University required them to:
Conduct fundamental research on decision making associated with climate and related environmental change. The proposed research program should advance basic understanding about decisions dealing with issues like risk perception, resilience and vulnerability, disaster reduction, trade-offs, equity, framing, tipping points, complexity, and probabilistic reasoning associated with risky phenomena. The research program should also advance understanding of decision making under uncertainty specifically associated with climate and related environmental change. Research conducted by the collaborative group must be interdisciplinary in character and draw on expertise from multiple disciplines.
Develop tools that people, organizations, and governments can use to better understand the risks associated with climate and related environmental change and the options they have to address related risks. Proposals must address how the basic research can help people and/or organizations make better-informed decisions to cope with the potential consequences of climate change and related environmental risks.
Provide education and research opportunities for U.S. students and faculty. The individuals and groups to be served through these educational efforts may be varied and may include undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, students from groups underrepresented in the social and behavioral sciences, K-12 teachers, and/or visiting scientists and engineers.
Develop and disseminate tangible products for researchers, decision makers, and other relevant stakeholders. As part of its dissemination plan, the collaborative group may include the development of user-friendly web sites and/or other mechanisms to facilitate the dissemination of climate change information and its effective use in decision making. 
In addition to producing several websites [1,5], a developing Student Sustainability Solutions Website , a number of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, CRED has released their how-to guides for effective climate communicating:
The Psychology of Climate Communication: A Guide for Scientists, Journalists, Educators, Political Aides, and the Interested Public. 2009
http://guide.cred.columbia.edu/index.html online or download pdf 
Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication. 2014 update of original guide
http://www.connectingonclimate.org/ pdf link 
In these, climate matters are not settled and that is an opportunity to portray the worst as perils to be avoided for the greater good. They finger those holding up efforts to save humanity and Earth from the ravages of an out of control climate = skeptics, but urge caution in approaching them. 
With their “disseminations” in hand you will have their expensively granted ammo without having to matriculate in any of the Earth Institute’s Doctoral or Executive Education programs. Plus you will have a handy tool for identifying the elements of what the mainstream describes as “research-driven marketing”, rather than journalism, and a quick reference for bringing imagined climate impacts home to your targeted believers.
Here’s the layout for the original guide (graphics and other munchies are in the links and pdfs and the principles are hyperlinked below if you just can’t resist wandering off there):
FEATURING THE PRINCIPLES OF THE
PSYCHOLOGY OF CLIMATE COMMUNICATION
- Know your Audience
- Get your Audience’s Attention
- Translate Scientific Data into Concrete Experience
- Beware the Overuse of Emotional Appeals
- Address Scientific and Climate Uncertainties
- Tap into Social Identities and Affiliations
- Encourage Group Participation
- Make Behavior Change Easier
In order to envision examples of certain uncertainty communication, it is revealing to read the leader’s words. [clipped and reformatted, full letter is reference 4]
“Letter from the Director
Climate Change: Uncertainty and the Burden of Proof
David H. Krantz
I propose that uncertainty about climate change is an argument for vigorous departures from Business-As-Usual. The burden of proof should be shifted: anyone who favors BAU should be obliged to demonstrate that catastrophic climate change is extremely unlikely.
Skepticism about climate change has many variants:
a) At an extreme is conspiracy theory: reduction of greenhouse gas emission is a plot to undermine our way of life.
b) Less extreme is the view that environmentalists select and exaggerate evidence of anthropogenic warming in order to lobby for change.
Many skeptics believe that serious consequences will be averted without drastic action – perhaps through scientific breakthroughs, or perhaps simply through massive expenditures on adaptation by future generations.
Finally, there is skepticism derived from uncertainty. The approximations in climate models lead to uncertainty, model forecasts are intrinsically probabilistic, and climate-impact models are crude; thus, both the future extent and the consequences of global warming are quite uncertain.
Skepticism, however, pales when one properly imagines ecological catastrophes that might affect Homo sapiens. Wally Broecker likens the climate system to an angry beast. We may be uncertain how this complex system will react, if we prod it with a sharp stick; but uncertainty is an argument for avoiding such a prod, not for testing it. The possible consequences of the beast’s reaction to the prod are too severe to run this risk.
Yet it may already be too late. For hundreds of thousands of years, Earth’s atmospheric CO2 has cycled between about 190 and 290 parts per million (by volume), while global mean temperature has co-varied, roughly in phase with CO2, over a range of about 10°C. But in recent years, we have driven CO2 to about 390 ppm in Earth’s atmosphere; and Business As Usual may drive it to double this already highly provocative level.
To help imagine what an ecological catastrophe would be like, one can think about such catastrophes as they affect species other than Homo sapiens. Some populations expand and shrink by a factor of three or more. A well-studied example is the Canadian lynx, whose subpopulations expand unsustainably, in response to easy prey, but then contract drastically. The pain and the intra-specific aggression of starving lynx go unrecorded; but if human population were to shrink by a factor of 3, at least the beginning of that catastrophe would be recorded, and would make the record of human genocide over the past few millennia look like a genteel tea party.
Such a catastrophe is far from certain; but can we rule it out? The burden of proof for BAU would be to show that it is virtually impossible. I don’t think that a credible argument of that sort can be made. Thus, uncertainty makes the case for vigorous departure from BAU.
CRED’s primary funding comes through the National Science Foundation program called DMUU, or Decision Making Under [Climate] Uncertainty. This program itself represents a small, ambivalent departure from BAU. Since climate change was uncertain, the U.S. government invested a little in research, rather than making a commitment to programs that might have strong effects on people’s lives. And over the past 6 years, CRED researchers have begun to understand the complex ways in which uncertainty affects decision making.
One of our themes is strategic use of uncertainty: people use it as an argument for whatever action (or inaction) they already favor for other reasons. A person with strong prevention focus may use uncertainty to favor caution: don’t commit to this romance, or don’t release water from this reservoir. With a promotion focus, the same uncertainty would argue for eagerness: seize the opportunity, it might work out!” [4, my bold]
Please don’t poke the beast.
1] Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, Earth Institute, Columbia University –http://cred.columbia.edu/
“This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants No. SES-0345840 and SES-0951516”.
2] The Psychology of Climate Communication: A Guide for Scientists, Journalists, Educators, Political Aides, and the Interested Public. 2009
http://guide.cred.columbia.edu/index.html online or download pdf
3] Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication. 2014
http://www.connectingonclimate.org/ pdf link
http://ecoamerica.org/research/ pdf link
“This guide was made possible with the generous support of National Science Foundation SES-0951516 (awarded to the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions), and funding from the MacArthur Foundation, and the Linden Trust for Conservation provided to ecoAmerica”.
NSF Program Solicitation
2010 five year NSF award to CRED at Columbia University