The global scientific and policy community now unequivocally accepts that human activities cause global climate change (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007; National Research Council, 2010a). The scientific consensus has been translated for a broad public and policy makers in a variety of recent reports (National Research Council, 2010b; National Science Foundation, 2009; U.S. Climate Change Science Program, 2009). Although information on climate change is now readily available, the nation still seems unprepared or unwilling to respond effectively to climate change, due partly to a general lack of public understanding of climate change issues and opportunities for effective responses (Leiserowitz, 2003; Leiserowitz and Smith, 2010; Leiserowitz, Moser, and Dilling, 2007; Patchen, 2006; Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 2007, 2009). The reality of global climate change lends increasing urgency to the need for effective education on earth system science, as well as on the human and behavioral dimensions of climate change, from broad societal action to smart energy choices at the household level (Gardner and Stern, 2008).
The public’s limited understanding of climate change is partly the result of four critical challenges that have slowed development and delivery of effective climate change education. First, research over the past 15 years has demonstrated that the underlying science of climate change is inherently difficult for most learners to comprehend (Boyes and Stanisstreet, 1993, 1997, 2001; Coyle, 2005) and for educators or schools
to competently teach (Abbasi, 2006; National Research Council, 2007; Storksdieck, 2006). Furthermore, the connection between science and society that is implied in climate change education aimed at changing people’s behavior makes the task of teaching and learning more difficult still (Gardner and Stern, 2008; Heimlich and Ardoin, 2008). Second, achieving the broad range of goals of climate change education requires a cross-disciplinary approach, blending education with the learning, social, behavioral, and economic sciences as well as earth systems science. Third, the myriad of federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and businesses invested in climate change education may duplicate efforts and waste limited resources without a forum for coordination, cooperation, and alignment of overall education strategies. Fourth, like evolution, climate change has become a highly politicized topic in the policy arena and in education, and people’s willingness to be educated or to learn depends on their attitude toward the issue itself (Gardner and Stern, 2008; Leiserowitz and Smith, 2010).
As one response to these challenges, Congress, in its 2009 and 2010 appropriation process, requested that the National Science Foundation (NSF) create a program in climate change education to provide funding to external grantees to improve climate change education in the United States. The Climate Change Education Partnership (CCEP) Program is part of a major investment of the federal government directed toward climate change education, involving a variety of players, including, among others, the National Science Foundation; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Education, and Energy; and the U.S. Geological Survey.
To support and strengthen these education initiatives, and in response to the 2009 congressional mandate connected to NSF’s funding for a climate change education program, the Board on Science Education of the National Research Council (NRC), in collaboration with the Committee on Human Dimensions of Global Change and the Division on Earth and Life Studies, created the Climate Change Education Roundtable. The roundtable provides a forum for dialogue between practitioners and experts in multiple disciplines relevant to climate change education. It facilitates collaboration across federal agencies and private organizations, helping to promote unique contributions and align overall education strategies.
The roundtable has funding to convene two workshops on issues of particular concern. At its first meeting, roundtable participants expressed
a need for greater clarity regarding the goals, audiences, and effective practices in climate change education. Consequently, for the first workshop, the roundtable decided to focus on the goals of climate change education for various target audiences and the potential challenges in reaching those goals across the range of these audiences, among both the public and decision makers. The Steering Committee on Climate Change Education Goals and Objectives was thus established by the NRC to conceptualize and conduct a workshop not only to inform the roundtable members, but also to address a broader stakeholder community; attendees of the workshop included climate change education researchers, educational practitioners, government agencies, nonprofit institutions, and information users. This summary will be made available to these communities and can be shared with and distributed throughout their networks.
A second workshop will be held to address climate change education in formal education settings, including grades kindergarten through high school and undergraduate studies.
Workshop Goals and Organization
The overarching goal of the workshop, held in Washington, DC, on October 21 and 22, 2010, was to advance transdisciplinary climate change education efforts undertaken by various climate change educators and stakeholders by developing a common understanding of the range of climate change education goals, the various audiences for climate change education, and strategies that are effective for addressing specific goals with specific audiences. The steering committee—representing expertise spanning behavior and decision science, psychology, sociology, environmental science, climate science, and the learning sciences—planned and implemented the workshop, focusing on two primary topics: public understanding and decision maker support. In an effort to provide a common frame for the workshop participants, the steering committee based the initial assumptions about climate change on the recent NRC report Advancing the Science of Climate Change: that climate change is happening, is based largely on human actions, and is supported by multiple lines of scientific evidence (National Research Council, 2010a). Beyond this initial assumption, the workshop did not discuss, nor intend to explore, the science of climate change or related climate issues but rather to confine the discussions to informing the climate change education community.
To explore these topics, the steering committee structured the workshop to provide ample opportunity for discussion among expert researchers and practitioners in complementary fields that often operate in relative isolation from one another. These fields include decision making and risk analysis, education, learning and cognitive science, behavioral and envi-
ronmental economics, workforce analysis and green jobs, public literacy and communication, and physical and natural sciences.
About This Report
This report is a summary of the workshop presentations and discussions. Chapters 1 through 3 summarize discussion during the first three sessions. Chapter 1 addresses questions related to the goals of climate change education. Chapter 2 addresses questions related to the audiences of climate change education, and Chapter 3 focuses on the implications of audience segmentation for climate change education strategies and research. The final chapter is a synthesis of the key issues that arose during the workshop.
Appendix A provides the workshop agenda and a list of the participants. Appendix B lists the members of the Climate Change Education Roundtable. Appendix C contains brief biographical sketches of the workshop presenters, steering committee members, and staff. To provide additional information for the discussions at the workshop, the steering committee arranged for a number of background papers to be prepared. Box 1-1 lists their titles and authors, organized by workshop session.1
It is important to be specific about the nature of this report, which documents the information presented in the workshop presentations and discussions. Its purpose is to lay out the key ideas that emerged from the workshop and should be viewed as an initial step in examining the research and applying it in specific policy circumstances. The report is confined to the material presented by the workshop speakers and participants. Neither the workshop nor this summary is intended as a comprehensive review of what is known about the topic, although it is a general reflection of the literature. The presentations and discussions were limited by the time available for the workshop.
This summary was prepared by two independent rapporteurs, and it does not represent either findings or recommendations that can be attributed to the steering committee. Indeed, this document summarizes the views expressed by workshop participants, and the steering committee was responsible only for the quality of the agenda and the selection of participants. Also, the workshop was not designed to generate consensus conclusions or recommendations but focused instead on the identification of ideas, themes, and considerations that contribute to understanding the topic.
1The papers are available online at http://www7.nationalacademies.org/bose/Climate_Change_Education_Workshop1_Table_of_Contents.html.
Background Papers Prepared for the Workshop
Session 1: Goals of Climate Change Education
Into the Breach
Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development
Climate Change Education Funding Goals: NSF, NOAA, NASA
Sherrie Forrest and Jeremy Flattau
Session 2: Mapping Current Public Climate Change Goals and Outcomes to Various Audiences
Connections Between Climate Literacy and Audience’s Climate Change Beliefs and Attitudes
Sociological Perspective of Climate Change Education Audiences
Social Context for Climate Change Education
America, the Ocean, and Climate Change: Key Findings
The Ocean Project
Session 3: Implications of Audience Segmentation for Education Strategies and Research
Climate Change Education for Diverse Audiences
Climate Change Education and the Media
Climate Change Education for Opinion Leaders
Climate Change Education for Faith-Based Groups
Climate Change Education for Sportsmen, Nature Enthusiasts, Evangelical Groups, and Other Interest Groups
Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change: Report in Brief
National Research Council
GOALS OF CLIMATE CHANGE EDUCATION
Climate change education has various goals, which include understanding the basic science of climate and climate change; supporting informed decision making by individuals, organizations, and institutions; behavior change; and stewardship where appropriate—all of which are
often summarized under the term “climate literacy.” The ultimate goal is sometimes stated as positive impacts on the climate, mostly in terms of stabilizing and mitigating emissions of greenhouse gases, but increasingly also including the increased capacity to adapt to the consequences of climate change.
More specifically, some educational efforts focus on improving understanding of the climate system, climate science, the impacts of climate change, mitigation and/or adaptation to climate change, and related issues. Others strive to draw connections between climate change and economics, social justice, and other societal issues. Both of these strategies (a narrow focus on the science of climate change and a broader treatment of the human-climate interaction) are represented in the Atlas of Science Literacy (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2007) and in the draft of the conceptual framework for science education under development at the NRC (2011). Still others aim to go beyond improving understanding to changing behavior, for example, by improving the quality of decision making toward stewardship. For example, many programs at science and nature centers follow an explicit goal of influencing behavior, such as the Climate Change in California exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences (2008), which aims to “help the public understand climate change and take action” or the Bill Nye’s Climate Lab exhibit at the Chabot Space and Science Center (2010), which encourages children to collect “solutions.” These differences in the underlying goals of climate change education efforts pose barriers to developing a community of practice with a common language.
Session moderator Wändi Bruine de Bruin (Carnegie Mellon University) explained that the first workshop session aimed to explore (1) the goals of climate change education, as defined in different fields and for various audiences; (2) the indicators of success; and (3) the groups that are pursuing the various goals (including segments of the population that tend to dismiss the reality of or the human causes of climate change). She added that the session was designed to help individuals engaged in climate change education from various and often disconnected fields to understand the goals of their colleagues. In this way, the session would provide a foundation for later workshop discussions through a common understanding of the range of climate change education goals.
An Environmental Education Perspective
Nicole Ardoin (Stanford University), whose research focuses on motivations for environmental behavior, opened her presentation by defining environmental education as a process of informing individuals’ knowledge, attitudes, motivations, and commitment to the environment. She
stressed that environmental education aims to provide individuals with the skills needed to work individually and collectively toward solutions to current environmental problems and to prevent future ones. From this perspective, the goals of environmental education are to foster awareness and concern about economic, social, political, and ecological interdependence in urban and rural areas; to enhance the knowledge, values, attitudes, commitment, and skills needed to protect and improve the environment; and to create new patterns of behavior toward the environment.
Ardoin’s recent work includes several initiatives on climate change education, energy efficiency and environmental behavior, and a number of research projects looking at community-based decision making around natural resource use. On the basis of this work, Ardoin sees a tremendous opportunity for climate change education to draw on both behavior change theory and education theory, enabling people not only to learn facts, but also to better understand why climate change matters.
Ardoin observed that the ultimate goal of education is to teach people how to learn and think, so that they can most effectively react to a changing planet in the short and long term. She highlighted the importance of thinking about education as a lifelong strategy, distinguished by its long-term, cyclical, and iterative nature, and suggested that providing opportunities for people to engage in all aspects of this cycle could encourage them to think critically and creatively about environmental solutions. Ardoin also pointed to the potential of integrating social strategies, such as marketing and communications, with education strategies, to make climate change education efforts more powerful in motivating individuals to live more sustainable and climate-friendly lifestyles.
Ardoin cautioned that climate change education efforts will have limited impact if educators do not recognize that knowledge alone is insufficient to motivate changes in behavior. A range of behavior theories suggests that individuals’ emotions, values, skills, and opportunities to act all affect responses to public education campaigns (Ardoin et al., 2009; Gardner and Stern, 2008; Heimlich and Ardoin, 2008; Kollmuss and Aygeman, 2002). In the case of climate change education, she suggested that initiatives could not so much encourage individuals to take specific actions, but instead aim to support them in making ongoing informed decisions.
As an example, Ardoin pointed to the importance of systems thinking in developing educational efforts focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Increased understanding of the broader systems and context in which climate change occurs allows individuals, communities, policy makers, and thought leaders to adapt their understanding and behavior to new realities. She ended by observing that the goals of climate change education extend beyond improved understanding of
the climate system, carbon cycles, ocean acidification, and related issues and suggested that the field needs a broad set of goals similar to those of environmental education.
A Social Science Perspective
David Hassenzahl (Chatham University), whose research, teaching, and outreach focus on risk analysis and sustainability, took the perspective that it is critical to attend to the lessons of social sciences when thinking about climate education. He began on a cautionary note, explaining that adult individuals are not likely to change their minds or behaviors toward issues related to climate change and have probably already identified their trusted sources of knowledge. He added the corollary that “individuals do not make decisions” but rather are constrained by the norms created by culture and society, which often limit the scope of individual decisions by limiting available choices, for instance in what to eat or wear and how to live.
Hassenzahl stressed that, despite these societal and cultural limitations, large-scale changes are possible and do happen. He suggested that reaching the goals of climate change education may require practitioners to think beyond “how do we change individuals” to the role of generational shifts in behavior and what choices are made available. To support such a shift, everyone may not need to understand climate change, but a select few people may need to be well informed. Striving to inform only a few people does not mean abandoning the ideal of a scientifically (or climate-) literate public, but it recognizes who makes decisions and how decisions are made and aims to support these decision makers in a more targeted way.
Hassenzahl gave an example of the positive changes that have occurred over the past century in sanitation, health care, and air quality—Los Angeles being a good example of the latter. He noted that social scientists have learned a great deal about how such changes come about and suggested that climate change education efforts can benefit from their findings. He called for avoiding the “deficit model” of climate change education, which aims only at increasing individuals’ understanding of how and why climate change occurs. He noted that climate change education includes changing attitudes, decision-making processes, and behaviors and that research clearly indicates that knowledge alone does not lead to these changes (Ardoin et al., 2009; Gardner and Stern, 2008; Heimlich and Ardoin, 2008; Kollmuss and Aygeman, 2002). In fact, some people act to limit the impacts of climate change without fully understanding the processes underlying it. For example, behaviors that would limit carbon dioxide emission, such as energy savings, may be motivated not by concern about climate change, but for simple economic reasons
(cost savings, thrift) or security concerns related to homeland security or energy independence.
Hassenzahl addressed the question of whether widespread actions to mitigate or adapt to climate change would be more likely to occur with a well-informed public or a “dogmatic” public—that is, a public that is comfortable following broad, overarching ideas rather than one that makes individual informed decisions on most issues most of the time. He suggested not ruling out the option of people who understand the scientific evidence on climate change becoming more dogmatic on the issue, to parallel the (often highly successful) approach of those who argue publically against human-induced climate change. In his view, it is possible that this approach could be more likely to lead to widespread pro-environmental behaviors, even as such a perspective challenges the common view that well-informed citizens and consumers should weigh the evidence in every single detailed decision they are making.
Hassenzahl ended by stressing that public opinion about climate change and related issues is important since it influences those who wish to be responsive to public concern and public tastes. The importance of the issue is reflected in coal companies billing themselves as “clean,” oil companies advertising their research and development of alternative fuel sources, and the convening of this workshop.
A Federal Agency Perspective
Frank Niepold (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) also observed that climate change education has many goals, adding that many groups are engaged in education efforts targeting a variety of audiences. He sees the range of educational goals, groups, and target audiences as one of the challenges to engaging in a coherent discussion about climate change education. To illustrate this point, he described the range of goals of the climate change education programs operated by the U.S. Global Climate Research Program (USGCRP), EPA, and NOAA.
The USGSRP’s overarching vision is to create “a nation, globally engaged and guided by science, meeting the challenges of climate and global change.” Its mission does not include behavior change, but it does include informing actions and decisions through coordinated and integrated federal programs of research, education, communication, and decision support. Niepold pointed out that the new strategic plan for EPA emphasizes the goal of “taking action on climate change and improving air quality,” and it is working to educate the public about climate change and the actions people can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, the agency’s goals include both changing people’s understanding of climate change and fostering individual and collective action that could prevent it.
Climate change education is reflected in NOAA’s long-term goal of “an informed society anticipating and responding to climate and its impacts.” The agency is working to develop a climate-literate public that understands climate change and makes informed decisions. To track progress toward this goal, NOAA is collecting evidence regarding how well key segments of society understand the risks related to climate change and use this knowledge to increase resilience to climate change impacts. The agency also tracks comprehension and use of climate science concepts by educators and other outreach professionals.
Despite the disparate goals for climate change education, Niepold indicated that these federal agencies have agreed on a shared definition of climate literacy. Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate, developed by 13 federal agencies and many other science and education organizations, defines a climate-literate person as someone who “understands the essential principles of Earth’s climate system, knows how to assess scientifically credible information about climate, communicates about climate and climate change in a meaningful way, and makes informed and responsible decisions with regard to actions that may affect climate” (U.S. Climate Change Science Program, 2009). He emphasized that the key point in Climate Literacy is that knowing more about science is not enough to accomplish the ultimate goal of informed decision making and actions. This presents a large challenge to education systems, requiring a long-term commitment, he said.
Niepold proposed that the climate change education and communication communities could adopt the recommendations of a recent NRC study, America’s Climate Choices: Informing Effective Responses to Climate Change (National Research Council, 2010b). These include the following:
• Establishing “a national strategy and supporting network to coordinate climate change education and communication activities for policy makers and the general public.”
• Establishing baseline levels of public understanding and responses to climate change and monitoring changes in American climate literacy, including knowledge, risk perceptions, and behavior.
• Assessing the effectiveness of different climate change education and communication strategies and programs.
• Providing federal support to increase the capacity of educational institutions, scientists, and students to collaborate with diverse groups and stakeholders needing climate change information.
• Promoting teacher training programs for climate education.
• Developing climate change-related educational tools, materials, and technologies, including web-based materials.
• Setting national climate education goals and providing support to states to design and implement climate education standards.
• Providing guidelines and support for climate change education in “informal environments, such as museums, zoos, and aquariums.”
Niepold also mentioned a background paper prepared for the workshop by Matthew Nisbet (2010), which argues that increased public understanding of climate change will not by itself lead individuals to consider climate impacts in their decisions and actions. Nisbet describes how climate change education is often discussed narrowly in terms of promoting a knowledgeable spectator public. He argues that these discussions tend to view Americans as spectators in a political system in which the real decisions about climate change are made by experts, policy makers, environmentalists, and industry. Proponents of this view assume that increased public understanding of climate change science will lead to increased public concern and wider acceptance of scientific expertise, ultimately leading to a decrease in societal conflict over climate change policy.
Nisbet, however, argues in his paper that research on learning, decision making, and behavior suggests that the goals of climate change education should be broad, extending far beyond technical understanding of climate science alone. The goals should emphasize civic education and engagement, “which means empowering, enabling, motivating, informing, and educating the public on not just the technical but also the political and social dimensions of climate change” (Nisbet, 2010). If such broad goals were adopted, Nisbet continues, climate change education initiatives would need to include affective outcomes, like trust in scientific sources of information or a sense of future success. They would also require a new communication infrastructure and participatory culture, one in which citizens’ act as peer educators who can help others learn, connect, and engage. In addition, communication and education initiatives would refrain from blaming the public for a “knowledge deficit”; instead, they would view education as a two-way process in which experts and decision makers seek input and learn from the public, as well as vice versa.
Niepold ended by saying that he had provided an extremely broad range of goals for climate change education and called for these goals to be addressed quickly, strategically, and skillfully.
Climate Change Education Goals: Panel Discussion
Following the presentations, moderator Bruine de Bruin facilitated a discussion of the goals of climate change education among three pre-
senters: William Solecki (Hunter College), Kit Batten (Heinz Center), and William Spitzer (New England Aquarium). She began the discussion by asking what education strategies are most likely to lead to changes in behavior or climate literacy.
Solecki responded that the most successful strategies connect with the issues, concerns, mandates, and missions of particular stakeholder organizations. A deep understanding of the various audiences’ objectives, values, and interests makes it possible to frame climate change in a manner that each audience will be receptive to. Solecki argued that gaining such understanding is a critical first step in any education effort.
Batten added that not all scientists are skilled at communicating their results to nonscientist audiences. To support climate change education, scientists need to clearly explain their research and understand the media world and the policy-making process. In her view, climate change education is at a turning point, and now is the time for scientists to think about communicating more effectively using both new and more traditional media. She agreed with the emphasis of the presenters that education about how and why climate change is occurring is not enough, calling for a greater focus on communicating how science works, what scientific uncertainty is, and how individuals can use science to make decisions.
The panelists then discussed the goals that climate change education efforts could address beyond increased understanding of facts about climate change. Spitzer stated that museums and aquariums are trying to educate people as civic actors and participants in a democracy. He sees “a real opportunity to develop successful efforts” by applying findings from cognitive science and communications science. Informal learning institutions can crystallize knowledge in ways that excite people and inspire them to act, which is critical to advance the broader goal of creating a generational shift in people’s connection with the environment. In his view, the goals are ultimately about stewardship and people taking responsibility, not just individually, but as social actors.
Solecki stated that it is also important to consider how and where different audiences access information about climate change. He observed that a great deal of information does not reach any audience because it was created without serious attention to audience needs or information-seeking habits. Hassenzahl proposed that the first step in developing an effective education initiative is to ask, “How much do we know about these different audiences?” and “Do we know what those access points are for the different audiences?”
Spitzer responded that one set of access points consists of informal education institutions. These institutions and their employees are good at tailoring their interactions to align with people’s understanding of, and interest in, climate change on a given day. They know a lot about
working with audiences with different levels of understanding of, and interest, in climate change. Spitzer suggested that these institutions’ staffs could have a positive effect in climate change education because they are trusted by the public and generally are skilled at working with diverse groups. Batten added that the media represent another important type of access point. She observed that as people increasingly choose what media sources they watch or listen to, the sources have become more polarized and specialized; as a consequence, individuals receive less and less common information.
Niepold outlined a process of developing successful education strategies for diverse audiences, which begins with observing others’ strategies and selecting those that appear promising. The next steps are to test the strategies with different audiences, make adjustments based on the test results, and finally to share the results with other climate change education efforts. This process represents an improvement over the previous practice of making broad assumptions about what might work and then applying these assumptions without any evaluation of impacts. Spitzer added that testing is also useful to answer questions about how best to frame a message (such as whether to use the term “climate change” versus the term “global warming”). Testing can help climate change educators recognize when they have found a good metaphor that can appeal to values that are shared across diverse audiences.
Solecki suggested that another effective strategy for connecting with a particular target audience is to ask a well-respected leader or innovator in this audience to deliver the message. It is also important to connect the message to the local needs, issues, and concerns of the audience, particularly when speaking to decision makers and policy makers who seek information that is framed in a context that is meaningful to them. For example, it may be productive to frame an education effort, not in terms of climate change, but rather in terms of sustainability, energy security, access to cheaper energy, or other related issues.
Audience Comments and Questions
Elaine Andrews (University of Wisconsin–Madison) asked what indication there is that the goals of climate change education are being reached. Niepold responded that one indicator of success is the growing number of states that include climate change in their science education standards, and another is the increasing public understanding of climate change. In his view, however, more work is needed to develop measures of progress toward other goals of climate change education efforts targeted to diverse audiences. Ardoin agreed that, because of the variety of goals and audiences, there is an attendant need for a variety of evaluation metrics. For
example, some climate change education efforts have defined their goals in collaboration with target communities. A single metric cannot assess progress in reaching goals defined by and for diverse audiences. Measures of emotions, skills, actions, and engagement are needed to assess progress toward the broader goals of climate change education, such as thoughtful, engaged participation in climate change debates and in climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives.
F. Stuart Chapin (University of Alaska) noted that his fellow scientists most often focus on the information that they think the public needs in order to better understand scientific findings related to climate change. He asked if scientists should focus more on the information that the public wants and needs to know in order to make informed choices. The panelists thought that gaining understanding of what type of information the target audience wants and would find most useful for decision making would help scientists communicate more effectively about climate change.
Ted Willard (American Association for the Advancement of Science) asked if the goals for climate change education include behavior change and, if so, whether that is still considered education rather than communication or advocacy. Niepold responded that, although the question of how education can create behavior change has not been clearly resolved, some climate change efforts include the goal of behavior change and tend to advocate for certain behaviors. However, some people view simply teaching about the science of climate change as advocating that climate change is occurring and is important. Although most educators are uncomfortable engaging in advocacy or being viewed as advocates, the reality is that education often includes some level of advocacy, and this is not necessarily bad.
Niepold stressed that education efforts should be designed to encourage the application of knowledge to make informed decisions, which could represent a change in behavior. He noted, however, that education efforts may be justly criticized as advocacy if they push people to adopt specific behaviors or to make specific decisions. He cautioned that education efforts that move past filling the audience’s perceived “information deficit” in the basic science of climate change, to include information on how to limit or adapt to climate change, need to be considered carefully as to whether they are moving toward advocacy.
Aaron Datesman (U.S. Department of Energy) asked if it is better to teach about global warming rather than climate change, since, in his view, global warming is much easier for people to grasp. The panelists said that focusing only on global warming would be problematic for various reasons. Spitzer explained that people do not experience climate; they experience—and are concerned about—the local weather, which often influences their understanding of climate change. For example, when
people experience record snow falls or colder than average weather, they begin to doubt whether global warming is occurring. He also noted that climate disruptions have impacts that are not solely related to warming, and climate change education would not connect these impacts to climate change if warming were the sole focus.
Breakout Group Discussions
At the end of Session 1, the workshop participants were divided into five groups and moved to separate rooms. Three of the groups consisted of people who are primarily concerned with public education, and two groups consisted of people primarily concerned with informing decision makers. A carousel brainstorming technique was used to facilitate discussion (see Box 1-2). To initiate the conversation, the workshop steering committee provided the following guiding questions:
1. What are the highest priority goals and outcomes of climate change education (from your perspective)? What indicators would suggest to you that these goals have been achieved?
2. What stakeholder groups are you involved with or know of that are invested in climate change education (including groups who may deny or be skeptical of climate change or its human causes)? What goals and outcomes are these groups pursuing?
3. What assets do various stakeholders (e.g., physical/natural scientists, educators, social scientists, federal agencies, advocacy groups, etc.) bring to climate change education?
During the breakout group discussions, participants discussed the fact that climate change education has been changing over the past several years. Participants in some groups expressed a desire to move beyond working on climate change education as unconnected individuals and groups to more coordinated and collaborative efforts. Some groups identified development of a community of practice in climate change education as a priority. In addition, groups identified several other high-priority goals of climate change education, including understanding the process of science, empowering informed decision making, and motivating changes in behavior. Within the goal of behavioral changes, several more specific subgoals were identified, including
• increase stewardship of the environment;
• decrease fossil fuel use;
• increase energy efficiency, conservation, and the use of renewable energy resources;
Carousel brainstorming is a small-group activity embedded in a larger group session. Its purpose is to activate existing knowledge and encourage synthesis across different individual understandings and knowledge about a topic when a group is too large for meaningful full-group discussion and when there are multiple topics, questions, or ideas to bring to the discussion.
Topics, questions, or ideas are written on a flip chart and posted around the room. The larger group is divided into subgroups, one per flip chart (the ideal group size is 5-7 people). Each group is given a different colored pen or marker and assigned a “home” question or topic.
The task is for each group to read the statement/question/topic and then brainstorm about what it knows, believes, or thinks, and record the group’s ideas on the sheet. Each group is given a set amount of time to discuss and record its ideas. At the end of the time limit, each group moves to the next flip chart with a new question. At each new flip chart, the groups are tasked with reading what the prior groups wrote and responding to those comments: they note if they strongly agree with something, make comments on ideas they disagree with, add ideas, and generally build on the prior groups’ thinking. Subsequent rounds have less time than the original round. The groups continue to rotate through until all groups are back at their home question or topic.
In the final round, each group reads and summarizes all the comments on the page. At the end, each group reports what is on the sheet. It is vital that a short time limit be enforced so that groups summarize the most salient points and do not simply read everything on the sheet. Full-group discussion can follow to prioritize, clarify, strategize, or synthesize across all questions or topics.
During the workshop, five breakout groups were formed following each of the three panel discussions: two groups focused on informing and educating decision makers and opinion leaders, and three groups focused on informing and educating the public. The groups included approximately 20-30 participants, who included members of the steering committee, presenters, and audience members. Each room was set up with chairs, easel pads, colored pens, sticky pads, and a digital audio recorder.
• make more green consumer choices available; and
• increase preparedness to respond to the impacts of climate change.
In all the breakout groups, participants brought up the idea that climate change educators need to have a better understanding of what influences behavior change.
In response to questions 2 and 3, group participants discussed the many stakeholders with various assets for climate change education. For example, federal and state agencies were identified as stakeholders whose
assets include funding, education resources, and information sources; scientists were identified primarily as sources of new climate science findings. Universities and cooperative extensions were seen as having critical assets for translating scientific research into education resources, conducting climate and education research, and providing outreach to local communities. The primary assets of nongovernmental organizations, advocacy groups, and faith communities lie in their potential to connect with local communities. Finally, people in the groups saw audience researchers, communication experts, and marketing experts as stakeholders whose assets include knowing how to craft messages that resonate with different target groups.
When considering various stakeholder assets, people discussed the need to tailor education processes or practices to match different audiences’ interests, motivations, values, and knowledge of climate change. This approach moves away from a deficit model of education, recognizing and building on the funds of knowledge that diverse populations already possess.
One challenge discussed in a few of the groups is that some audiences have trouble understanding the underlying science of climate change, or they simply do not believe that climate change is caused by human impacts (in part because it seems counterintuitive that humans could change the whole atmosphere in such profound ways). Nevertheless, individuals in these audiences have probably experienced the effects of climate change in their local areas, whether through increased flooding, more frequent severe storms, changes in natural environments and wildlife populations, or higher energy costs. When developing education efforts for these audiences, people said, it seems important to focus on locally relevant impacts of climate change. In addition, having a trusted source of information in the community being addressed may also lead to more productive education efforts.
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