The AGU (American Geophysical Union)’s annual conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco is the huge jamboree, this year with 16,000 or so abstracts written by roughly the same number of scientists, educators and environmental policy wonks. Lots of hard geoscience (Detection and Characterization of Transient Crustal Deformation) and Planetary Science (Planetary Plasma Interactions and Atmospheric Escape) but plenty of Education sessions, which was not the case in 2001 when I first attended AGU.
Climate education is gaining traction, thanks in part to recent funding from NSF and NASA in particular, and we’ve had a preview this morning in a session on “Innovative Practices in K-12 Pre-Service in In-Service Geoscience Teacher Professional Development,” where Frank Niepold gave a whirlwind overview on “Linking Student Achievement and Teacher Science Content Knowledge about Climate Change: Ensuring the Nations 3 Million Teachers Understand the Science through an Electronic Professional Development System,” and Kathy Bertram from University of Alaska at Fairbanks provided an overview of “The Arctic Climate Modeling Program: K-12 Geoscience Professional Development for Rural Educators.”
I’m now in a session on Climate Services in a Changing Climate where the message is that there is a enormous need to provide climate scenarios over seasonal to years rather than distant time horizons. Change is happening now and will continue for the foreseeable future. A Climate Service will help people adapt near term and longer term. As Robin Webb from the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder points out, in order to help improve decision quality for those on the front lines, such as water managers, we need to focus on impacts conveyed as scenarios, not as deterministic forecasts, degrees of change or parts per million.
Kristen Averyt from the Western Water Assessment, which is a Regional Integrated Science Assessment with CIRES and NOAA, noted a survey conducted to assess the climate literacy of their intended users who participated in a workshop found that overall they got 63% right. There was general improvement after the workshop, but still confusion about the difference between climate change and variability and the impacts of ENSO on Colorado climate.
In her abstract she writes:
It is becoming necessary to improve the climate literacy across all sectors. However, past examples illustrate that climate science has been insufficiently communicated, resulting in perceptions that misinform decision-making and planning. Given the necessity to include climate science in planning on multiple scales, scientific educators must work with stakeholders to determine how best to improve climate literacy. Doing so will reduce uncertainty in the application of climate data in planning, and thus mitigate vulnerabilities to the impacts of climate change.