People love the Mars rovers. Maybe it's the cute names with the implied personalities. Perhaps it's just the notion of driving around another planet, Moon-buggy style, that pulls people in. Either way, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity have been groundbreaking successes in getting the public engaged in science. It's time to leverage these gains in science's struggles here on Earth.
There are undoubtedly people enthralled with studying the climate of Mars who are simultaneously shuddering at the same work here on Earth. These are the people who can be reached: those who can genuinely get excited about science, but are probably just worried about how climate science could affect them. Let's use the instances when science is sexy: he Mars rovers, the International Space Station, the Large Hadron Collider, to start making a larger point about the efficacy of research.
Suppose, for example, that whenever NASA announces a new discovery on Mars they tie it directly to one here on Earth. Already, these connections are made in passing; let's make them direct and upfront and unavoidable. Building a larger, more connected picture of science helps firm up the (perceived) weak links with credibility from the public relations successes. This might help alleviate the public perception of climate scientists as isolated researchers looking to justify a paycheck. Instead, they'd be playing one role in a whole movement of understanding how the atmospheres of planets work.
I can understand NASA's reticence to cast their most prized success into the melee of public debate on climate science. But they have a responsibility, I think, to step in and add some legitimacy that some in the general populace don't seem to think is there.