Climate Change Education (CCE) is becoming a major investment area for the federal government and will involve, among others, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Energy. CCE is defined as an effort that seeks to ensure that individuals and communities understand the essential principles of Earth’s climate system and the impacts of climate change and are able to make informed and responsible decisions with regard to actions that may affect climate and adaptation to climate change. Such broad goals for CCE demand a transdisciplinary approach that blends education, learning, social, behavioral, economic, and global Earth system science and requires careful consideration of related research evidence from each of these disciplines.
The National Research Council established the Roundtable on Climate Change Education in September 2009 to foster ongoing discussion of the challenges to and strategies for improving public understanding of climate science and climate change among federal agencies, regional and local government units, the business community, and nonprofit and academic sectors. Through its five meetings and two associated workshops over a course of approximately three years, the 30 Roundtable members were learning from each other and invited experts about issues such as the challenges inherent to climate change education; strategic approaches to
designing interlocking programs in research, learning, workforce development, and public literacy; and strategies for accelerating the education of U.S. citizens about climate and climate change. The Roundtable brings together federal and state policy makers, educators, scientists and communications and media experts. It includes a number of ex officio members from federal agencies with dedicated interests in climate change education, including officials from NSF, NOAA, NASA, USGS, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, and EPA.
The CCE Roundtable provides an opportunity to bring together overlapping and complementary expertise from academic and professional disciplines that commonly do not intersect when addressing CCE. It also provides federal agencies with important foundational knowledge related to key aspects of CCE and learning, such as the nature and scope of existing efforts, achievable and measurable goals, challenges and opportunities inherent in developing a national-level CCE initiative, and areas where investments may provide the greatest leverage. Roundtable discussions also provide useful new insights for a variety of other stakeholders. The CCE Roundtable also provides a formal mechanism to support continued collaboration and cooperation across federal agencies on major future climate change education or other science education initiatives. Through Roundtable discussions, the work of the federal agencies can be coordinated with stakeholders from private and nonprofit sectors such that their efforts can be built to complement and enhance federal initiatives. Through its public workshops and published workshop summaries, the CCE Roundtable will also become a source for evidence-based information related to climate change education.
So far, the CCE Roundtable has sponsored four associated workshops. The first one focused on fundamental goals and objectives of climate change education and outreach to various target audiences, and ways to understand whether these goals and objectives are being met. A summary report for the workshop is available at http://www.nap.edu: Climate Change Education: Goals, Audiences, and Strategies: A Workshop Summary (National Research Council, 2011, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press).
The second workshop sponsored by the Roundtable focused on K-14 education, particularly in light of the NRC conceptual framework for new science education standards that included climate change education-relevant aspects. A summary report for the workshop is available at http://www.nap.edu: Climate Change Education in Formal Settings, K-14: A Workshop Summary (National Research Council, 2012, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2012).
The workshop on climate change education for future business leaders constituted the third Roundtable-sponsored workshop. The fourth workshop discussed strategies that are rooted in behavioral, social, and educational sciences for engaging private individual, family, and community forestland owners in conversations about climate and climate change. The workshop was held in August 2013, and a report is forthcoming.
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