As the world confronts the reality of global climate change, education has emerged as a crucial issue. An informed public understands the natural and human factors that affect climate, comprehends the potential large-scale impacts of climate change and considers responsibly the personal and societal choices that might help reduce the rate and magnitude of climate change and lead to resilient communities and a sustainable world. This requires a multi-faceted approach to climate education in schools, museums, web, public events and other venues, with the support and direct involvement of educators and the climate research community.
The Climate Literacy Network provides a forum for organizations, agencies and individuals to collaborate for climate education. Members share ideas, coordinate efforts, promote policy reform, develop learning resources and support integration of climate literacy into formal and informal education venues. Initiatives of the Climate Literacy Network (CLN) feature accurate scientific information, engaging learning experiences, and multiple pathways to reach broad and diverse audiences, in both formal and informal venues.
CLN uses the widely-endorsed Climate Literacy Framework as its conceptual starting point. Developed and endorsed by NOAA, NASA, NSF and a distinguished group of scientists and educators, this Framework defines a set of essential principles and scientific thinking skills that a climate literate person should understand. In this way, it provides a common set of learning goals that are scientifically accurate and pedagogically sound. The Framework has now also been endorsed by American Meteorological Society, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Association of Science and Technology Centers, GLOBE, ESIP Federation, North American Association for Environmental Education and numerous other organizations.
Many of the climate literacy learning goals align well with national and state standards. They include basic concepts of regional and global climate systems, the dynamics and interconnections of the components of the Earth system, natural climate cycles, and the evidence for and implications of human-induced climate change. The learning goals also include essential skills of scientific thinking, creative problem-solving, use of modern technologies of Earth exploration, insights from the space-age perspective and forecasting climate trends based on global modeling.
Yet climate literacy is not just another educational topic – it is one of the crucial challenges of our times. A variety of organizations have embraced this challenge, set it as a priority, developed resources for climate literacy and promoted their use in schools, museums and on the web. While these efforts are laudable, there was no coordination of these efforts nor a community-wide process to set over-arching goals and strategies, identify needs and promote a more cohesive vision and set of implementation plans. Hence, these organizations established the Climate Literacy Network. Launched in April 2007, CLN has grown dramatically, with over 20 member organizations, vigorous and collaborative communications, and some bold and ambitious plans appropriate to the urgency of the need for climate literacy.
CLN is a leadership organization, providing venues for people in leadership roles in key organizations to share their ideas, plans, resources and action items. CLN uses weekly telecons, focused meetings, a collaborative web site and other electronic communications to share and coordinate these initiatives. CLN also monitors state, national and global policies regarding climate and climate education, and advocates for policies and funding in support of climate literacy. (Federal agencies in CLN do not participate in this advocacy.)
CLN is also an action organization, launching or coordinating important initiatives to achieve large-scale climate literacy in the target populations. As detailed below, these initiatives include work with states to infuse climate literacy into their science standards, conducting teacher professional development, establishing a web-based guide to curriculum resources, and developing new curriculum materials that embody the content and skills in the Climate Literacy Framework. Recognizing the importance also of climate literacy in the wider population, CLN will also develop materials and activities suitable for informal venues, such as workplaces, youth clubs, etc.
Climate Literacy Network has defined several over-arching goals:
- encourage adoption of climate literacy goals in state education standards
- promote educational initiatives at local, state, national and global levels
- develop and disseminate strong curriculum materials
- provide professional development for teachers and other educators
- identify appropriate informal education populations
- tailor, develop, disseminate, and apply materials for informal education
- evaluate and refine educational materials and practices
- share best practice ideas and resources
- enable collaborations among scientists, educators, community leaders & policy-makers to achieve these goals
To achieve these goals, CLN has developed plans for several initiatives for immediate action. Some of this work is already underway by member organizations. Others are in planning and development phases, and will require funding for their launch and large-scale implementation. Hence, CLN will also launch fund-raising campaigns to support this work. This will include proposals to federal and state agencies, as well as private funding from corporations, foundations and individuals who recognize the crucial importance of climate literacy.