Expanding Information, Education, and Communication
Action 29: Mass Action—How Scientists Can Engage the Public in Global Dialogue Toward Shared Policy and Behavior Change Solutions for Global Climate Change
Can solutions for global climate change come from nontechnical, democratic movements? Is climate science shared in such a way that the public can share both pain and hope in climate change actions? Scientists need to present statistical, economic, and technical materials in plain language, and across cultures, through the media and through changes to educational curricula and materials. Is simply educating the public enough? Do scientists have a role in encouraging social action on energy and climate change?
Task 1 A broad, cross-sectional partnership including government foundations, philanthropic organizations, corporations, educators, students, NGOs, and scientists should be formed to take collaborative action on climate change. The partnership should be built across audiences and issues.
Task 2 The partnership should establish a working group to communicate with scientists about how to share data with the lay public.
- The working group should create a protocol for communication (climate literacy) and common language, including terminology.
- The working group should design standardized training for scientists that encompasses the communication protocol, as well as media techniques that improve basic communication.
Task 3 The partnership should work with youth organizations and media organizations to reach youth and popular segments through “new media.”
Task 4 The partnership should mobilize community leaders for community action, using appropriate messengers.
Task 5 Scientists working with the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) should select articles that are most important for public awareness. These articles should be edited in such a way that the lay public can comprehend them. (Note that NCSE’s online Encyclopedia of the Earth, www.eoearth.org, does this and welcomes authors.) NCSE should work through journalists such as science writers to communicate key information in popular journals and other venues.
Task 6 The subject of climate change should be included in college and other educational curricula.
Action 30: Should There Be a National Climate Service? If So, What Should It Do and Where Would It Be?
As the nation advances its policymaking and scientific activities related to global climate change, the federal government must ensure that agency programs are administered and organized effectively. Edward Miles and colleagues at the University of Washington recently proposed the establishment of a national climate service “to connect climate science to decisionrelevant questions and support building capacity to anticipate, plan for, and adapt to climate fluctuations.” (See An Approach to Designing a National Climate Service in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103 (52):19616- 19623, available at http://www.pnas.org in pdf.)
Establishment of a national climate service is part of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, introduced by Congressmen Waxman and Markey and approved by the House of Representatives in June 2009. The national climate service would define the activities to be undertaken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to fulfill three primary functions: “advance understanding of climate variability and change at the global, national, regional, and local levels; provide forecasts, warnings, and other information to the public on variability and change in weather and climate that affect geographic areas, natural resources, infrastructure, economic sectors, and communities; and support development of adaptation and response plans by Federal agencies, State, local, and tribal governments, the private sector, and the public” (HR 2454).
Task 1 The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Department of Commerce, with authorization by Congress, should move quickly to establish a national climate service and in parallel establish an advisory committee of nonfederal representatives (information providers and users) to define a mission and responsibilities, identify priorities, estimate required resources, and propose an organizational structure.
Task 2 OSTP and OMB should undertake a federal interagency initiative to mobilize the nation’s vast resources to better understand, mitigate, and adapt to the changing climate.
Task 3 The national climate service should bring together the best and brightest from government, industry, academia, and the nongovernmental sector to tackle the urgent and unprecedented information challenges associated with climate change.
Task 4 The national climate service should specify scientific and technical needs and requirements and should work with the science and technology community to deliver improved products and services.
Task 5 To ensure an informed citizenry, the national climate service should be the federal focal point for climate change communications and education.
Task 6 The national climate service should work in an ongoing, close partnership with the broad user community — within and outside government — to define needs and continually develop products to meet them.
Task 7 To ensure continued public awareness, the national climate service should effectively communicate to society the risks and adverse consequences of climate change.
Task 8 The national climate service should ensure the scientific integrity, transparency, and accuracy of its products and services.
Action 31: Communicating Information for Decision Makers—Climate Change at the Regional Scale
Societal impacts of climate change and climate variability are experienced most acutely at regional (subcontinental), state, and local levels. Likewise, planning for adaptation to climate change and climate variability over the next 30 years most likely will be done by decision makers focusing on these scales. Many regions of the United States have shown trends in climate variables over the last 30 years that are likely to be related to global climate change. Much of this analysis has been done by the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program, an interagency regional-climate modeling program for creating future-scenario climates at regional scales for impacts assessment. Also, NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments program and regional climate centers communicate climate science to decision makers.
Task 1 There should be proactive, early and frequent, meaningful, and purposeful dialogue between the scientific community and the intended audiences to increase climate science and technical literacy among decision makers and the community at large.
Task 2 Regional climate-change-impacts projects should be facilitated by professionals with expertise in communications, decision making, and conflict resolution.
Task 3 Institutional structures, such as interdisciplinary teams and extension services, need to be encouraged and embedded in projects.
Task 4 Analysts should use several climate models to create ensembles and hence characterize probabilities of future climate conditions.
Task 5 Communicators should frame and direct information for specific intended audiences.
Action 32: Adaptation and Ecosystems— What Information Do Managers and Decision Makers Need?
In the coming decades, environmental change driven by climate disruption and complicated by other factors promises to be both significant and surprising and will place new and complex demands on decision makers working in the areas of ecosystem conservation and natural resource management. Providing timely and relevant information to this community is a crucial, national infrastructure need. Unfortunately, there is an emerging consensus that existing environmental observational and reporting systems are inadequate and that the gap is most acute at the local to regional level where many adaptation decisions will be made. Overarching observations include the following:
- There must be increased communication with, and education of, managers, decision makers, and policymakers concerning effects of climatic disruption on flows of ecosystem goods and services to society.
- The effect of climate disruption on ecosystems and natural resources is a dynamic problem; to facilitate adaptation, managers and decision makers need flexible policies.
- Adaptation requires that managers and decision makers receive near real-time delivery of customized data and decision-support products.
Task 1 Policymakers should understand the urgent need for a national-scale, comprehensive assessment of the needs for specific data, information, and “tools” of all types of decision makers (including private landowners) to better enable adaptation to ecosystem changes.
Task 2 Integration and synthesis capability must be improved. Decisions about ecosystem adaptation require integrated analysis from many sectors and monitoring programs, with special efforts needed to make analyses relevant to regional and local-level decision makers. There should be increased emphasis on translating and communicating scientific information to decision makers at all levels, including funding for science integrators and translators, as a vital component in the information system.
Task 3 Adaptation to climate disruption should be addressed through an overall ecosystem sustainability framework of “whole systems” thinking that also incorporates social, economic, and political considerations. Policymakers should facilitate flexible policies.
Task 4 The proposed national climate service should include a component capable of providing timely and relevant information needed by the ecosystem adaptation community — a national climate effects network. Operating in a manner comparable to an “integrated threat center,” this component would serve as a one-stop source of science, data, information, and modeling from all branches of the federal government and provide national-scale oversight and management to coordinate between agencies. Operationally, this component might be based at networked centers distributed around the nation.
Task 5 There is a great need for strategic design and long-term maintenance of ecosystem monitoring and reporting programs that deliver tailored and optimized products and tools. New systems should be designed to enhance and build on the value of existing monitoring and reporting programs.
Task 6 To inform decisions about ecosystem adaptation and to support active adaptive management, regionally and locally relevant data, projections, and other information are needed, both in near real time and from downscaled global General Circulation Model forecasts.
Task 7 High-intensity monitoring of selected ecosystems or watersheds may provide “early warning” signals of climate disruption, threats to species, and ecosystem thresholds.
Action 33: Diverse Perspectives on Climate Change Education — Integrating Across Boundaries
The need to integrate climate change education, both formal and informal, into existing initiatives, businesses, programs, and curricula is increasingly recognized, as the urgency and seriousness of climate change grows. Different organizations involved in climate change education have different target audiences and face a diversity of challenges, and they need to work together to ensure that climate education is coordinated enough to be broadly effective. Opportunities for cross-sectoral collaboration aimed at improving climate education strategies are rare.
Task 1 President Obama should deliver and support a clear, compelling national call for citizens and leaders in all sectors to take well-informed action in response to current climate change science in the workplace and in home life.
Task 2 The US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) should coordinate with NSF (multiple directorates), NOAA, EPA, Department of the Interior (USGS, National Park Service), NASA, DOE, Department of Education, and USDA (Forest Service and CSREES) to support and guide the development of a nationallevel strategic plan for climate change education that includes specific mechanisms for working with a wide range of nongovernmental partners (including formal, informal, and nonformal education, corporations, foundations, and NGOs).
Task 3 The US Global Change Research Program and its federal partners should co-convene a workshop with climate-education networking organizations, such as the Climate Literacy Network, and other nongovernmental partners to ensure multisectoral and diverse stakeholder input into the design of a climate change education strategic plan.
Task 4 This coordinated effort and strategic plan should include outreach to and collaboration with governmental and nongovernmental funding sources (i.e., private foundations) to initiate and support multidisciplinary research to benchmark and assess the effectiveness of existing climate change education programs and to identify and evaluate promising integrative approaches (“best practices”).
Task 5 To infuse popular culture with accurate and appropriate climate change science, educational NGOs and their university, community, and business partners should facilitate opportunities for scientists and engineers to partner with artists, fashion designers, novelists, game designers, and other conduits to the public.
Task 6 Textbook publishers should integrate climate change into the long-term development of textbooks across the range of academic disciplines. In the short term, these publishers should provide multidisciplinary climate change information to supplement existing publications.
Task 7 All climate change educators (instructors and curriculum developers for kindergarten through college, nonformal, and informal education) should
- Utilize pedagogical strategies that are responsive to target audiences, (e.g., use localized examples of climate change impacts and incorporate financial implications of climate change)
- Adopt an adaptive approach to education (recognize that climate change science will continue to evolve)
- Use IPCC and other reliable sources as a framework to build trust among the public (particularly important for informal educators)
- Incorporate existing and emerging social science research on how to most effectively frame messages based on scientific evidence
Task 8 Organizations like the Climate Literacy Network should cross-link key high-traffic Web resources (e.g., Windows to the Universe, Encyclopedia of the Earth, Keystone Center) to make them visible and accessible and to connect relevant groups. All organizations could include links on their Web sites to other resources.
Task 9 With the assistance of federal, educational, business, and NGO coalitions, the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) should develop and implement a climate change education campaign for their constituency (adults over 50).
Action 34: Building People’s Capacities for Implementing Mitigation and Adaptation Actions
Research-based strategies are needed for efficient climate change education and communication strategies. How do we educate people of all ages about climate change? How do we design messages about climate change? Which barriers limit people’s intentions to get involved in mitigation and adaptation actions? Which people’s capacities should be reinforced in order to help them in proposing and implementing adaptation measures?
Task 1 Communicators should tailor messages to the audience (appropriately research the target audience, and use appropriate messengers with appropriate target audiences).
- In communicating with individuals, connect climate change solutions to everyday actions/decisions; explain them to people using examples they understand in their everyday lives; gradually build social norms and trends toward climate change solutions; utilize status symbols to drive initial changes; use funny messages and cartoons to convey information; make it personal; focus on one message at a time; use analogies; focus on addressing people’s motivation to act, skill sets, and permission to act.
- In educating the community, provide and encourage community activities and involvement.
- In mass education, use multiple media pathways (school curricula, wikis, commercials, gyms, and collections of personal stories of “Why I Care about Climate Change” like PostSecret), and train teachers and other educators.
Task 2 Measure the effectiveness of communication strategies, and continually improve.
Task 3 Address paradoxical issues and false beliefs.
Task 4 Provide empowerment and opportunity to get involved.
Task 5 Tap into positive motivators; focus on immediate benefits of climate mitigation.
Task 6 Frame issues in a generational context.
Task 7 Encourage innovative behavior.
Task 8 Reduce barriers to make it easy for people to do something.
Task 9 Use the school system to improve science literacy and spread climate change solutions.
Task 10 Create youth-produced advertisements to publicize awareness and solutions.
Action 35: Climate Change and Human Health— Engaging the Public Health Community
The immense implications of climate change for health and well-being are still not sufficiently recognized. The American Public Health Association featured Climate Change: Our Health in the Balance as the theme for their National Public Health Week in April 2008. Building on NCSE’s 2007 National Conference: Integrating Environment and Human Health, these recommendations are intended to help make the case for increased attention to the need to protect the environment and to protect human health.
Task 1 Policymakers should include life cycle analysis of the potential health, environmental, economic, and social consequences and cobenefits when considering proposed technologies or practices to mitigate or adapt to climate change. This analysis is especially important for energy technologies and practices.
Task 2 Congress should support an increase in surveillance, monitoring, and response capacity for climate change-related health impacts in local, state, and federal public health agencies, with an emphasis on defining and protecting vulnerable populations.
Task 3 Congress should include, in relevant legislation, assessment of health impacts, positive and negative, of all technologies and policies related to climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Task 4 Congress should support the planning and implementation of climate change adapta tion plans as part of public health preparedness strategies on the national, state, and local levels.
Task 5 Local, state, and federal public health departments should institutionalize collaborative relationships with a broader array of other governmental and nongovernmental organizations responsible for policies and projects about climate change and health.
Task 6 The United States should collaborate with international organizations to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries and populations.
Task 7 The recommendations on emerging infectious diseases and other health implications of climate change published in the 2007 report on NCSE’s Seventh National Conference, Integrating Environment and Human Health, should be implemented.
Task 8 Congress should substantially increase funding for research on health impacts associated with climate change.
Task 9 The USGCRP should create a working group to review and coordinate all federal research related to health impacts of climate change.
Task 10 A national campaign should be initiated to educate the general public about the local and broader health implications of climate change.
Task 11 Curricula on climate change and health should be incorporated at all levels of education, with a special emphasis on programs in health and environmental sciences and studies.
This is a chapter from Climate Solutions Consensus.
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