CLIMATE CHANGE COMMUNICATION AND EDUCATION

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1. Context

2. Climate change education and training in the country

3. Climate change communication in the country

4. Monitoring and evaluation

 

  1. Context

i. Climate change context

The United States of America (U.S.), located in North America, has a total area of 9,192,000 km2 with a population of approximately 329.5 million people. The topography of the U.S. is diverse, with deserts, lakes, mountains, forests, and plains. The U.S. has a federally operated governance system with 50 states, a federal district, five major territories, and various minor islands. The U.S. Congress is the legislative branch of the federal government. The Executive branch of the federal government is led by the president. Under this federal system, U.S. government agencies are mandated to protect the environment. This country profile provides information on the U.S. approach to mainstreaming climate change communication and education on a national level and gives examples of state-level initiatives only when relevant and reported by the country in its official communications.

The World Bank reports that the U.S. is affected by climate change through frequent heat waves, higher than usual precipitation, massive wildfires, and water scarcity. The country is mainly affected by storms and floods, which amount to 60% and 18% respectively in the overall annual natural hazard occurrences for 1980–2020.

The Global Carbon Atlas reports that the U.S. emitted 14 t CO2 per person in 2020, which is one of the highest numbers in the world. According to the Inventory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2020 report published in 2022, energy-related activities account for the majority of greenhouse emissions in the U.S., primarily fossil fuel combustion (over 75% of total emissions). The transportation sector is the second-highest emitter of CO2. Other high-emitting sectors include electricity and heat.

The U.S. joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as an Annex 1 country. The U.S. did not sign the Kyoto Protocol and has hence not accepted the Doha Amendment. Under the 2009–2017 federal Executive, the U.S. signed the Paris Agreement in 2015. However, the U.S. withdrew from the Agreement in June 2017 under the 45th Administration. In January 2021, the 2020–2024 Executive signed an executive order to re-join the Paris Agreement, which was made official in February 2021.

In February 2021, the U.S. introduced Bill H.R. 794 (the National Climate Emergency Act of 2021), which requires the President to declare a climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act. At the time of this review, the U.S. had not officially declared a climate emergency.

In November 2021, the White House released a statement on Building A New Era of Nation-to-Nation Engagement under investments to advance Tribal infrastructures and proposed education equity for children. It includes a section on Combatting Climate Change and Protecting Tribal Lands.

ii. Relevant government agencies 

Climate change

Jurisdiction in the U.S. for energy, environment, and climate change issues is shared by federal, local, state, and Tribal governments.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a significant role in science education in the U.S. The U.S. Congress mandates the NOAA and its role in science education under the Act of America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology Education and Science Act of 2007.

Under the NOAA, the Climate Program Office was established to understand climate change and its response. The Office provides climate change predictability and impact information and supports development of the quadrennial U.S. National Climate Assessment. The Office launched the Climate Education Program for monitoring climate education, engagement, and workforce development and training across the country.

The Communication, Education, Engagement Division of the Office is the largest federal-based team with priorities in climate communication, education, and engagement. The Division partners with the U.S. Global Change Research Program, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture, and the National Science Teachers Association. The National Action for Climate Empowerment Focal Point is located within the NOAA.

The National Climate Task Force was launched by the 2020–2024 Executive. Its members are leaders from across the federal government. The Task Force website provides the Executive’s priorities, climate change objectives, and how to take climate action for individuals.

The National Park Service is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Service addresses climate change by launching multiple mechanisms that target climate change response. One mechanism is the Climate Change Response Program, a cross-disciplinary program that provides training, funding, and other services to preserve natural and cultural resources in line with to climate change response. The Program mainly focuses on climate change response in four ways: adaptation, mitigation, science, and communication.

The Department of Energy addresses climate change through support of research and innovation in clean energy and energy efficiency in homes, businesses, and vehicles.

The Department of Labor has helped launch clean energy jobs and training by funding opportunities in apprenticeship programs and the workforce. One main aim of the Department is transition to clean energy in the 21st-century workforce.

Education and communication

The U.S. Department of Education has a mission “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness” (2021, p. 3). The Department coordinates the work of the State departments of education and includes climate change in its work. The Department is responsible for all levels of education.

The U.S. Department of the Interior protects and manages the country’s natural resources and cultural heritage. The Department provides scientific and other information about the environment and natural resources and works with Indigenous Peoples to protect natural resources.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program is mandated by Congress to coordinate research and investments in understanding the global environment and its influences and impacts. The Program works with 13 federal member agencies to further the understanding of climate in the context of global change research, help people and organizations manage risks, and help develop responses to the changing climate. The following agencies are part of the Program:  Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Transportation, Department of the State, Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. International Development, NASA, National Science Foundation, and the Smithsonian Institution. According to the U.S. 7th National Communication (2021) the Program is the main mechanism by which the stakeholders collaborate for climate action.

In the context of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the Department of Agriculture  works with its affiliates for climate change research. Within that Department are the Agricultural Research Service, the Forest Service, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Economic Research Service, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and the National Resources Conservation Service.

A large number of non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, and research organizations support government efforts. One of the largest organizations is the North American Association for Environmental Education, which also focuses on climate change education.

iii. Relevant laws, policies, and plans 

Climate change

The 2020–2024 Executive has chosen to prioritize integrating climate change mitigation within the government, introducing bills and orders toward this goal.

The Clean Air Act (1970) regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. Section 112 of the Act requires that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency establish emission standards to reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants.

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (1980), also called the Superfund, established the Environmental Protection Agency‘s powers to act on natural emergencies caused by humans, such as hazardous wastes.

Bill H.R. 794 (2021) requires the President to declare a climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act. The National Climate Emergency Act of 2021 essentially urges the government to contribute funding for building climate resilience in the U.S. by emphasizing the impacts of climate change in the country.

In January 2021, Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, was introduced. The Order officially legitimizes prioritizing climate change in U.S. foreign policy and national security. The government, departments, and agencies are legally required to integrate climate resilience and to research how climate change will impact them. Following the Order, more than 20 federal departments launched adaptation and resilience plans. The Department of Interior, the Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have released Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plans.

In January 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 13990, Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis. The Order prioritizes protection of the environment by ensuring access to clean air and water and by reducing greenhouse gases. The Order also focuses on legitimizing building resilience to climate change. Federal agencies are directed to take action and initiate work to combat the climate crisis by addressing past federal promulgations and national objectives.

The President released a statement in November 2021 on Building A New Era of Nation-to-Nation Engagement to further Tribal infrastructures, education equity for children, and building resilience of Tribal Nations. The 2020–2024 Executive announced the integration of Indigenous traditional knowledge in climate change response and proposes incorporating it in federal and state policy making.

The National Park Service produced a Climate Change Response Strategy in 2010, which addresses climate change through four aspects: science, adaptation, mitigation, and communication. The Strategy continues to guide climate change response efforts across the Service. The Service and its Strategy are legally mandated by Congressional law and by policy. The Service’s Climate Change Response Program introduced a Strategic Plan in 2019 to prioritize evolving its climate change response. The goals and objectives include integration of climate change adaptation and sustainability in the Service to build climate resilience.

In December 2021, the Federal Sustainability Plan was introduced to focus on clean energy and jobs, prioritizing reducing emissions to zero in industries. Primary Plan goals include developing a climate and sustainability-focused workforce and advancing environmental justice and equity.

The Congressional Research Service published the U.S. Climate Change Policy in 2021. This report provides background on U.S. emission trends and activities for mitigation. The report addresses greenhouse gas emission targets under the 2020-2024 Executive and proposed legislative and policy actions.

Under Executive Order 140008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad (2021), each federal government agency’s head must submit a draft Climate Action Plan to the National Climate Task Force and the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer within a specific timeline. The plan must include steps that the agency can take to develop climate change resilience and acknowledge the agency’s climate vulnerabilities. The plan must include climate change adaptation and climate resilience. One example is the Department of the Interior Climate Action Plan (2021). That Plan lists enhancement of climate literacy within its workforce as an “institutional approach” (p. 2). Climate change will be integrated into day-to-day operations and long-term planning. The aim is for the Agency’s workforce to share educational information on climate science and its impacts with the public.

According to data provided by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, over 34 states have launched a climate action plan or are currently revising or developing one. These Plans mainly include greenhouse gas emission targets and outline actions for the state to achieve the goals. Additional aspects include resilience, economic and social goals, and addressing climate change at the state’s infrastructure level.

Education and communication

In 2021, the H.R. 2310, Climate Change Education Act was passed, requiring the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish a federal climate change education program. The Act legitimizes the significance of enhancing U.S. climate literacy and targets schools and higher education institutions.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, was enacted in 2022 and provides the largest federal investments in zero-emission transit and school buses. Climate change action and environmental justice are central concerns of the Law. Under climate change, carbon reduction and congestion relief programs are prioritized.

Following the Climate Change Education Act (2021), the NOAA published its Education Strategic Plan 2021–2040 that outlines strategic planning to guide the domain NOAA Education and a framework for tracking progress. Goal 1 of the Plan, ‘Science-Informed Society,’ is to reach children and youth through outreach and education activities that raise awareness about climate change and teach them how to address it. Goal 3 of the Plan, which aims for individuals and communities to become resilient to climate change impacts such as weather hazards and drastic environmental changes that NOAA monitors, pertains to climate change communication.

The Department of Education published a Climate Adaptation Plan in 2021 that includes supporting resilience of state and local education institutions, schools, and higher education institutions. The relationship between climate and equity is prioritized as increasing access to safe, healthy, and sustainable learning environments. The goal of the Plan is to “Help educators, students, and parents to understand and adopt ways to combat climate change through the education system.” (p. 8)

In 2020, 120 organizations, institutions, social movements, governments, Tribes, and businesses together produced the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) National Strategic Planning Framework, which provides recommendations under the six ACE elements for the government of the U.S.: “education, training, public awareness, public access to information, public participation, and international cooperation”(p. 9). The Framework intends to guide further dialogue and engagement for the U.S. to create an official ACE national strategic plan and the concerns to address with implementing that plan. The Framework calls for better inclusion of climate justice principles into a future national ACE plan, with a special focus on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, youths, and Indigenous Peoples.

States across the U.S. have legalized the adoption of climate change education. For example, In 2021, New York’s Assembly Bill 3468 “requires that climate change and sustainability education be taught in elementary and high schools to educate pupils about how human activities cause climate change, the effects of climate change, the dangers associated with climate change and preventative measures that can be taken to alleviate the impacts of climate change” (n.p). California’s Assembly Bill 1939 requires that Science coursework include climate change emphasis, including causes, effects, mitigation, and adaptation, starting no later than the 2023–2024 school year. The Indiana Department of Education collaborated with the Purdue Climate Change Research Center and Purdue University College of Science to launch the Indiana Climate Change Education Framework in 2021. The Framework offers accessible resources to educators to integrate climate change into their teaching.

iv. Terminology used for Climate Change Education and Communication

The Climate Change Education Act (2021) states that climate change is “human-induced and seeks to legalize the implementation of climate change education in the U.S.” (Section 2). The Act defines components of climate change communication and education in Section 3.

CLIMATE CHANGE EDUCATION.—The term “climate change education” means nonformal and formal interdisciplinary learning at all age levels about—

(A) climate change, climate adaptation and mitigation, climate resilience, and climate justice; and

(B) the effects of climate change, climate adaptation and mitigation, climate resilience, and climate justice on the environmental, energy, social, and economic systems of the U.S.

(2) CLIMATE LITERACY.—The term “climate literacy” means competence or knowledge of climate change, its causes and impacts, and the technical, scientific, economic, and social dynamics of promising solutions.

(3) CLIMATE JUSTICE.—The term “climate justice” means the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, color, culture, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of policies and projects to ensure that each person enjoys the same degree of protection from the adverse effects of climate change. (Climate Change Education Act 2021, Section 3)

The National Park Service published a strategy outlining climate communication’s importance. The Climate Change Response Strategy (2019) defines communication as providing “effective communication about climate change and impacts to the public” (p. 3). Many national parks have initiated communication about the consequences of climate change through interpretive programs and educational materials.

U.S. states have introduced bills to address climate change communication and education. For example, House Bill 1496 to improve climate science education was passed in the State of Washington in July 2019. The Bill targets building science literacy, specifically climate science, via increasing knowledge, skills, and opportunities for all students in Washington. The Bill defines a climate-literate person as understanding the climate system and being able to “communicate about climate and climate change in a meaningful way” (p. 3). Climate literacy signifies being able to “make informed and responsible decisions with regard to actions that may affect climate” (p. 3).

v. Budget for climate change education and communication

The Budget of the U.S. Government: Fiscal Year 2023 was published in March 2022 by the Office of Management and Budget. The U.S. designated over US$ 44.9 billion to tackle the climate crisis in the discretionary budget and has allocated specific budgets to proposals for climate change response. The Department of the Interior will be funded with US$ 375 million to further understand climate change through conservation planning, mitigation, and adaptation research and ensure that vulnerable communities living in coastal and fire-prone areas have access to information on effective climate change response. The Budget also supports development of a new federal climate data portal to give the public access to information on projections of climate impacts as the basis for decision making to increase climate resilience.

The Budget allocates US$ 349 million to the U.S. Geological Survey for core science systems. Programs to be launched or that are ongoing aim to provide access to information, science, and data for better natural resource management and responses to natural hazards.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will receive US$ 24 million for climate hubs, which function across Department agencies to focus on climate science and raise awareness of climate change response. The Budget also supports efforts by the hubs to integrate science-based tools in conservation planning, greenhouse gas reduction, and other environmental priorities on Federal lands. The Budget increases funding by US$ 148 million over fiscal year 2021 for climate research at the Department. However, climate change education is not addressed directly in the Budget.

The U.S. Department of Education Climate Adaptation Plan (2021) does not include budget information other than the American Jobs Plan proposal, which would provide US$ 112 billion to modernize schools and higher education institutions.

Specific federal organizations prioritize funding for individuals and communities that aim to further climate change knowledge and response. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA) launched the 2020–2021 Environmental Literacy Program, which awards grants for programs to build community resilience in addressing climate change and other environmental hazards. Total grant funding was approximately US$ 9 million, and 10 funded projects each received around US$ 450,000. For example, the Resilient Schools Consortium Phase II: Connecting Schools to Coastal Communities project is an example in climate change communication and education

Funding for climate change education is also legally recognized in various states in the U.S. The Assembly Bill 9831 (2020) for the State of New York establishes a climate change education grant program for eligible youth applicants or for teacher training or professional development programs that advance climate literacy. The Bill mainly targets schools in New York to further climate change knowledge by creating climate literacy programs or teacher training programs in climate change education.

  1. Climate change education and training in the country

i. Climate change in pre-primary, primary, and secondary education 

The Climate Change Education Act (2021) pushes for climate change integration into state education standards for science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and other subject areas. The Act also aims to develop climate change education frameworks and curricula that can be used as models for disseminating current climate change curriculum materials.

The Next Generation Science Standards (National Research Council,1996) provide standards for K–12 science and influence state science curricula for all school levels. States can choose to integrate the science standards or adhere to their own established standards. Disciplinary Core Ideas form the content in the Standards in four categories: Life Sciences, Earth and Space Science, Physical Science, and Engineering and Technology. The Disciplinary Core Ideas for Middle School (Grades 6–8) address global climate change. The contribution of greenhouse gases to Earth’s temperatures and the reduction of climate change are addressed in the understanding of climate science. As of May 2022, 26 states have adopted the science standards.

Federal agencies have a significant role in furthering access to climate education. The U.S. Department of Education launched the Green Ribbon School Program as a public engagement initiative and a federal recognition award for furthering sustainability in schools, districts, and post-secondary institutions. Educational institutions are awarded recognition for introducing cost-cutting environmental sustainability measures but do not receive any funding. The Program is a core feature in the Department of Education Climate Adaptation Plan (2021). One award winner featured in Highlights from the 2022 Honorees is the St. Martin of Tours Academy in La Mesa, California, an elementary school with 220 students from kindergarten Grade 8. Students engage in science, technology, engineering, and math activities that examine the environment, climate change, sustainability, and ecosystems. “

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) produces lessons and curricula that students and educators can access as a part of distance learning, virtual learning, or homeschooling. Lesson plans include phenomena related to climate change, such as carbon cycling and ocean acidification. Another module focuses on rising sea levels, their causes, and impacts and helps develop a response. The package uses Next Generation Science Standards for Grades 6–12 and includes activities and instructions.

Several non-governmental organizations work on climate change communication and education and are supported by the federal government. For example, the Alliance for Climate Education produced Our Climate Our Future, an interactive video series for young people about climate change. The award-winning videos and lesson plans on climate science, impacts, and solutions were updated in 2019.

The State Policy Landscape 2020-K12 Climate Action (2020) is a report by the Aspen Institute, an education and policy studies organization that tracks progress on integration of climate change in state curricula and standards. According to the report, 29 states and Washington DC, a federal district, have state science standards that teach human-caused climate change. Of these, 20 states use the Next Generation Science Standards. The science standards are inclusive of global climate change and related concepts. States such as California, Delaware, and Connecticut adhere to the Standards guidelines, and their curricula include climate change knowledge.

In May 2022, the Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communication and Education Project (MECCE) and the North American Association for Environmental Education collaborated to produce the Report, Mapping the Landscape of K–12 Climate Change Education Policy in the United States. The study on climate change education policy and its implementation from kindergarten to Grade 12 across the U.S. The study examines the degree to which policies focus on all learning dimensions, including cognitive, socioemotional, and action-oriented. The study found that only 17% of education policies in the U.S. mention climate change. The Indiana, California, and the District of Columbia have the highest climate change content in their curricula.

The ACE National Strategic Planning Framework (2020) calls for more climate data literacy in schools across the U.S. and better inclusion of climate change in curricula. Climate justice is a main focus of the Framework, which advocates for “Incentiviz[ing] school districts to appoint climate justice coordinators at the district level to help increase the capacity of educators and ensure that climate and climate justice curricula are implemented. Coordinators should foster partnerships between K-12, higher, and informal education, and other organizations.” (p. 25)

New Jersey was the first state to adopt climate change concepts in its science standards, across all subjects such as civics, history, science, and English. The standards were integrated in the 2020 New Jersey Student Learning Standards Science Kindergarten through Grade 12. Under Earth and Human Activity, the Standards list communication of solutions that will reduce the impacts of climate change on the environment. Students in high school (Grades 9–12) are encouraged to learn through design and develop their engineering skills to help communicate ideas for climate-based solutions. The goal for students is to “understand climate science as a way to inform decisions that improve quality of life for themselves, their community, and globally and to know how engineering solutions can allow us to mitigate impacts, adapt practices, and build resilient systems” (p. 8).

The State of New York adheres to the Next Generation Science Standards that list the study of climate as a Disciplinary Core Idea for middle school and high school grades. For example, over 200 students and 10 teachers in New York City Department of Education schools in the coastal area of Coney Island, Brooklyn, will engage with the community and raise awareness of climate change and its impacts.

ii. Climate change in teacher training and teaching resources

The ACE National Strategic Planning Framework (2020) calls for teacher empowerment and regular surveys to better meet the needs of teachers in the U.S.

The Washington State Legislature commits to climate science teacher training through allocation of US$ 6 million for 2022 and 2023, in addition to the US$ 10 million allocated in 2018. The ClimeTime initiative gives access to professional learning partners who train teachers to use the Next Generation Science Standards, specifically the climate science learning standards.

Government and non-governmental organizations both contribute to teacher training in the U.S. National organizations support the development of teacher training in communicating climate change education to students and youth. The Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) was launched in 2010 by university research and resource centers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and the NOAA fund the Network. The Network portal gives access to free, high-quality resources for educators on climate and energy.

The Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network has collaborated with the NOAA on Climate.Gov. This web portal aims to promote public understanding of climate science by providing data, services, and other climate-related support. The Climate.Gov section called Teaching Climate makes available lesson activities, multimedia, and interactive tools for educators to integrate into classroom teaching. Climate.Gov and the Network published a guide, Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Change, as a framework with principles for formal and informal education. The framework covers climate change impacts and understanding of Earth’s climate, serving educators who teach climate science in their science curricula.

Climate Generation, NOAA and other climate change education partners collaborated on the 2022 Summer Institute for Climate Change Education, a 3-day cohort workshop for educators on place-based climate education. The workshop addressed local impacts, solutions, networking, and local expertise.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) offers access to science education through the NASA Learn Science portal. Units on topics such as climate, physical science, earth, and space sciences are available at no cost for audiences of pre-service teachers, informal science education professionals, graduate students, and K–12 students. NASA also collaborates with the Goddard Institute for Space Studies to offer secondary teachers a collection of online climate change lessons, modules and models. Developed by Institute scientists and educators, the collection addresses climate change topics and student engagement through problem-based investigations and national education standards.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides professional development for teachers on climate and environmental education through resources and materials. The Agency consolidates resources for both educators and students and facilitates access to institutions’ resource portals for digital training materials.

Non-governmental and academic organizations contribute to improving climate literacy by making resources for educators available. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) established an MIT Climate Portal, which provides information on climate change, its consequences, and how to address it. The Portal is managed by the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative and receives support from the MIT Office of the Vice President for Research. Teachers can access a guide called Today I Learned about Climate Impacts, which covers skills and objectives acquired by understanding causes of climate change. Activities and games are based on climate resilience and adaptation for students.

Action for Climate Emergency is a youth-based organization that participates in climate change advocacy and raises awareness about climate science education. The organization launched a project called Our Climate Our Future, which makes lesson plans available for students and educators, on topics from Indigenous climate solutions to learning about the importance of declaring a climate emergency. Teachers can access specific lesson plans divided into four categories: science, impacts, solutions, and action.

Washington State House Bill 1496 (2019) proposes an initiative to improve climate science literacy. A grant program supports non-profit community-based organizations and education service districts in creating plans for teacher training in Next Generation Science Standards, including climate science standards. The New York State Assembly Bill 9831 aims to grow climate literacy for students by supporting the development of climate change education programs in schools. The Bill also funds eligible programs that focus on professional development for teachers in improving tools and resources for climate change education.

The U.S. 7th National Communication (2021) acknowledges that more than 77% of educators who teach climate change support its implementation. However, an education gap in teaching students about climate change exists.

iii. Climate change in higher education

The Climate Change Education Act (2021) addresses the development of climate research in higher education institutions and networks. The Act supports engagement between faculty and students to “develop applied climate research and deliver to local communities direct services related to local climate mitigation and adaptation issues, with priority given to projects that (A) foster long-term campus-community partnerships; (B) show potential to scale work beyond the grant term; (C) are inclusive for all segments of the population; and (D) promote equitable and just outcomes.” (n.p.)

North American research universities committed to climate action have formed a collaborative called the University Climate Change Coalition. The Coalition brings peer networks and universities together in furthering localized climate action and climate resilience. The Coalition‘s 2020-2025 UC3 Strategic Plan proposes goals and strategies for implementation. Goal 1 states that university resources should be leveraged to promote climate action research, teaching, and co-curricular activities. The strategy for this goal is to “establish pathways to incorporate concepts of climate action and sustainability across the curriculum” (p. 10). Other strategies under this goal include encouraging climate leadership and student participation in climate action on campuses.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists on its website research centers and programs that provide advice to the government, including the Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program.

A research-based website called Successful Student: Navigating Education helps prospective students select universities based on area of study or ranking. The website published an article on Best universities for solving climate change that looks at universities across the U.S. for their contribution to climate research.

Yale University has an established School of the Environment that offers Climate Change Communication, a research-based initiative that offers climate change knowledge, behaviors, attitudes, and policy preferences for the public, and a daily national radio program, Yale Climate Connections. The initiative engages with the public in developing climate solutions and achieves solutions through partnerships with governments, media organizations, civil society, and businesses. Yale University also offers programs in climate change and climate science, environmental justice, and natural resource management.

Harvard University Center for the Environment partnered with the Climate Leaders Program at Harvard, a student-led program under faculty guidance for Master’s and professional students across all Harvard graduate schools. The Program is a weekend retreat at Harvard Forest, involving engagement with leaders in the climate field and a year-end event. Students can engage with peers from across Harvard graduate schools with similar interests and work in climate change, to launch mentoring, develop professional skills, and create networks. Up to 30 Master’s and professional students from five Harvard graduate schools are accepted each year, mainly those with a background in climate-related work.

National organizations encourage student participation by establishing internships and work opportunities for university students. One example is the NASA Climate Change Research Initiative, a 1-year science, technology, engineering, and math engagement opportunity for educators and graduate students to work with NASA scientists. Participants may lead teams in NASA research centers. Graduate student research assistants work in a NASA science research area related to climate change during the fall and spring terms of the program.

The NOAA launched a program in 1990 called the Climate and Global Change Postdoctoral Fellowship Program that aims to train future researchers in climate studies. The NOAA’s Climate Program Office sponsors the Program, and postdoctoral fellows with a PhD in climate-related studies are eligible to work in NOAA research. They use observation, modeling, and documentation analysis methods  to study climate variability and projections.

Nongovernmental Organizations provide resources for higher education institutions to help them in their path towards sustainability and climate action. One example is the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). The Association hosts the Campus Sustainability Hub, an online resource center that lists thousands of resources including degree programs, certificate programs, and courses on climate change. AASHE's Centers for Sustainability Across the Curriculum are working with faculty from various disciplines to incorporate sustainability and climate into their coursework. In addition, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) reports on sustainability in higher education and is a primary vehicle for campuses in the U.S. to measure their impact with regards to climate and other aspects of sustainability.

iv. Climate change in training and adult learning 

A collaboration between the Forest Service Research and Development and the Office of Sustainability and Climate launched the Climate Change Resource Center. The Center is a web-based national platform for land managers and decision makers in science fields to address climate change in natural resource planning and management. Educational resources include learning modules, video presentations, and briefings on management-related topics and information on climate change impact on forests and ecosystems and adaptation and mitigation in grasslands.

The Department of the Interior published its Climate Action Plan (2021) in response to Executive Order 14008, Tackling Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. The Plan proposes implementing a comprehensive workforce training program across all the Department’s bureaus and offices to address climate change effectively. Department members will learn how to communicate about adaptive capacity through a national climate education and training program to regions and local communities The Climate Adaptation Science Center network supports scientists and managers in climate research by helping develop skills in science communication and partner engagement. The Center and the Department propose to provide climate change information to decision makers. The Department is convening a Department Climate Training Working Group that represents all bureaus and offices and will work on advancing a climate training program for Department employees.

The National Park Service integrates climate change into its workforce by providing climate training to its employees. The organization’s Climate Change Response Strategy (2010) lists goals and objectives to be implemented in day-to-day operations. Goal 5 is to “incorporate climate change considerations and responses in all levels of NPS planning” (p. 14) by providing training materials for managers and staff of the Service. The Service’s Strategic Plan (2019) outlines missions and responsibilities to provide guidance and support training for park staff in climate change science, adaptation, and communication, to ensure that climate change is addressed in decision making processes and engagement with park visitors.

In 2009, George Mason University’s Center for Climate Communication partnered with Climate Central, the American Meteorological Society, NASA, NOAA and Yale University to launch Climate Matters. This initiative provides free and reviewed materials about climate change to journalists and media weathercasters who report on climate change. With funding from the National Science Foundation, Climate Matters provides materials to more than 900 weathercasters across the U.S. In 2017, five professional journalism societies and Climate Matters collaborated to support journalists in reporting local climate change stories.

  1. Climate change communication in the country

i. Climate change and public awareness 

Multiple organizations convey climate change information to the public on the sector that is their focus. The National Park Service published its Climate Change Response Strategy in 2010, spreading awareness of climate change and its effects on parks to various audiences. National Park Service communication professionals learn strategies to convey climate change information and develop programs that guide people to solutions. Information on current implementation is not available at the time of this review.

The Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) National Strategic Planning Framework for the U.S. (2020), proposed by several community-led organizations and others, specifies recommendations for developing the nationally supported ACE Framework. The Framework calls for integration of ACE elements of public awareness, public access to information, and public participation in national governance. Recommendations under public awareness state that “successful public awareness campaigns engage communities and individuals in the common effort needed to foster climate-friendly behavior, sustainable lifestyles and implement national, regional, sectoral and international climate change policies” (p. 28).

The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication called Climate Connections is a part of the Yale School of the Environment at Yale University in Connecticut. The Climate Connections mission is to further climate change communication for people in government and the public, raising public understanding of climate risks and moving forward in developing solutions to address risks. This nonpartisan multimedia service shares articles on climate change, along with a daily broadcast radio show,. Both aim to help citizens and institutions understand the impacts of climate change. The director of the Program hosts the show five times a week, speaking on climate action and ways to increase climate resilience. The radio program is broadcast by more than 680 public stations of universities and communities and furthers climate change communication by spreading awareness through multimedia services.

The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health comprises doctors and health professionals across the country who raise public awareness of climate change and its impacts on the healthcare sector. The Consortium includes over 600,000 clinical practitioners who aim to educate the public that climate change harms the U.S. and that it can be slowed by decreasing use of fossil fuels and making green choices in energy. Some states have formed organizations under the Consortium to pursue climate action. Washington Pediatricians for Climate Action is one organization dedicated to raising awareness of climate change impacts on children’s health. The organization amplifies pediatricians’ role in advocacy, education, research, and restoration to further the understanding of climate change and its solutions.

The U.S. 7th National Communication (2021) gives an overview of federal agencies providing state and local governments and institutions like non-profit organizations with information on education and workforce development related to climate change research in national and global contexts. Collaboration between federal agencies and institutions aims to raise public awareness of climate change and communicate to the public on impacts and opportunities to address it.

ii. Climate change and public access to information 

The Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) National Strategic Planning Framework for the U.S. (2020) offers recommendations for the U.S. ACE Framework. Public access to information is an ACE element that can provide people with tools to address climate change through knowledge production and sharing. A sub-recommendation is establishing protocols to ensure public access to climate research that focuses on decision making and solutions. Another is that government-generated data and information be made accessible to the public, along with information held by non-governmental organizations, businesses, and local communities.

In October 2021, the 2020–2024 Executive launched a wide range of government initiatives to deliver accessible information to the public on how to tackle natural disasters caused by climate change. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) established the Climate.gov portal to give the public and professionals access to climate data and information. A redesign of the website improves accessibility for users to actionable climate change information by integrating artificial intelligence. The added Global Climate Dashboard provides answers to frequently asked questions and updates the public-friendly system with data about climate change. Teaching Climate is another part of the website that focuses particularly on climate change education, including lesson plans and guides for teachers. The NOAA’S National Centers for Environmental Information and Regional Climate Centers offer climate data and tools, and Climate.gov gives public access to those tools. NOAA also ensures access to education resources and collections through its website on climate-related areas of study that aim to increase climate literacy.

Another government initiative released in October 2021 outlines how the federal government will ensure better access to climate tools and services. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the NOAA, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency compiled a report on Opportunities for Expanding and Improving Climate Information and Services for the Public, on effective ways to improve climate information and services for the public. The report recommends that the U.S. Government make changes in access to climate information for the public and enhance engagement in climate communication.

  • Recommendation 1: Focus climate services on the challenges that pose the greatest risks and opportunities to society.
  • Recommendation 2: Foster interagency coordination and strategic public-private partnerships to develop, deliver, and continually advance climate services.
  • Recommendation 3: Enhance the usability, translation, and relevance of climate services to support use by all Americans.
  • Recommendation 4: Strengthen core science capabilities needed to expand and improve climate services. (2021, p. 7).

The report states that federal agencies are improving access to climate literacy for the workforce through education and training, including developing climate information resources for educators and students.

In August 2021, the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy co-signed an Executive Memorandum that outlines the government’s multi-agency research and development priorities for formulating the fiscal year 2023 budget. Priorities include furthering investments in science, technology, engineering, and math education and engagement and workforce development. Under tackling climate change, climate science and facilitation of public access to climate-related information are a priority. Provision of climate information must aim to assist federal, state, local, and Tribal governments in planning and resilience, along with training and capacity building in climate services.

iii. Climate change and public participation 

The Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) National Strategic Planning Framework for the U.S. (2020) states that public engagement and participation are needed to address the climate crisis. According to the Framework, the government-supported ACE strategy must encourage and empower the public to develop climate solutions. The U.S. ACE Framework should also assist in “developing and implementing tools to monitor and evaluate progress on public empowerment and participation” (p. 3). A specific recommendation is to implement ACE elements that include public participation, access to information, and public awareness, because “public participation ensures ownership by encouraging people to be more attentive to policymaking and participate in the implementation of climate policies” (p. 30). Objectives for implementing the recommendation include prioritizing training for policy makers and senior decision makers in philanthropic institutions to include public participation. Another objective is establishing additional processes that promote public participation in decision making. The Framework would also ensure that policy making at all levels of the government recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ input, culture, and ways of knowing.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established a Public Participation Guide of online public participation toolkits, frameworks, behaviors, skills to be acquired, workshops, and resources. The Agency offers planning resources for its workforce and others that enable public participation in environmental and health concerns. In 2000, the Public Participation and Accountability Subcommittee of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, a federal advisory committee to the Agency, devised a Model Plan for Public Participation with the critical elements needed for public participation. The Plan includes core values and principles for public participation and an Environmental Justice Public Participation Checklist for government agencies.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency compiled a manual for its workforce, Better Decisions through Consultation and Collaboration. Stage 1 of the manual highlights the processes of conducting assessments of internal stakeholders on public participation goals and identifying public participation processes that determine success of project goals and objectives. Stage 2 of the manual includes assessment results and final public participation objectives. The Agency also produced the Community Action for a Renewed Environment Roadmap that includes a 10-step plan to improve the community environment and health. The Roadmap provides steps to build community consensus to take effective action and mobilize a community partnership to take action on environmental impacts and hazards. However, climate change is not directly addressed.

The Better Climate Challenge is a voluntary, market-based platform for a diverse group of organizations to set goals for greenhouse gas emissions reduction and steps to address climate change. Over 950 organizations partner with the Department of Energy in the Better Buildings Initiative. Any organization with a portfolio of buildings/housing in the U.S. can participate. The Initiative ensures broad participation from public and private organizations.

In 2010, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched the Climate Kids website to educate upper-elementary school children on climate science through games, activities, and articles. The website was updated in 2017 and presents modules on weather and climate, atmosphere, water, energy, plants, and animals.

President Biden launched the National Building Performance Standards Coalition of state and local governments committed to designing and implementing inclusive building performance policies and programs in their jurisdictions. The Coalition aims to achieve climate policy and equitable building energy through broad participation by public actors, supported by non-governmental organizations and federal agencies.

The U.S. 7th National Communication (2021) highlights that the NOAA conducted a federal inventory of Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE)-related programs that identified 166 existing programs and 72 proposed ACE-related programs across 19 federal departments and independent agencies. Of those programs, 71 relate to public participation. Most initiatives are from NASA, the Smithsonian Institute, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The Communication reports that

These preliminary results suggest significant increase in focus on equity and justice in proposed programs, consistent with the Biden Administration’s priorities for domestic efforts to address the climate crisis, and a less focus on gender-sensitive and intergenerational work in federal climate, education, training, and engagement programs. (p. 170)

  1. Monitoring and evaluation

i. Country monitoring 

The U.S. National Statistics for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is the official website that provides information on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the country. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Department of State, and various government organizations collaborated to develop the U.S. National Statistics for the UN SDGs. All the SDGs are examined and indicators are provided for each. Under Goal 13, on climate action, the U.S. uses the indicator “Has the US established any form of climate change mitigation, adaption and impact reduction into its primary, secondary, and tertiary educational curricula?” for SDG 13.3.1. The indicator for SDG 4.7.1 is “Percentage of US 8th graders attending public or private schools that emphasize ‘world affairs’ to a moderate or great extent.” According to the portal, 65% of students in Grade 8 learn about ‘world affairs’ The U.S. uses the OECD’s PISA data as source.

The National Centers for Environmental Information under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration control monitoring services that track key climate indicators through objective methods. Climate monitoring services provide information on temperature and precipitation, snow and ice, wildfires and other weather patterns. Monthly Climate Reports on climate-related occurrences at both the national and global scales are provided to the government, businesses, academia, and the public to support informed decision making.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency partners with a diverse group of organizations to compile sets of indicators related to the causes and effects of climate change. Indicators are provided in detail for areas such as greenhouse gas emissions, weather and climate, oceans, snow and ice ,and ecosystems.

U.S. federal government departments have agencies that monitor and evaluate the progress of their tasks and goals. The U.S. Agency for International Development provides Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Toolkits for staff and implementing partners, with resources for planning and integrating monitoring and evaluating practices into the Agency’s programming.

The U.S. Department of Trade and Development Agency published its Monitoring and Evaluation Policy in 2022 that strengthens the programming and support of the Agency. The Monitoring and Evaluation Office of the Department monitors programs and performance.

The National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance is one of four centers of the Institute of Education Science and is responsible for evaluating federal programs. Improving student outcomes is prioritized by providing technical assistance to states, districts, and colleges. However, the departments and centers do not focus on climate change communication and education.

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network USA mobilizes research, outreach, and global cooperation. The Network published the U.S. Sustainable Development Report in 2021, which examines the progress made in U.S. states toward the set indicators of the SDGs. The Report states that Goal 4, on quality education, has made progress in 2015–2020. However, Goal 13, on climate action, is performing poorly in some parts of the U.S due to high greenhouse gas emissions and increased impacts from severe weather changes.

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network USA launched the initiative Mission 4.7 that includes an education task force, a high-level advisory group, and a Secretariat with members from governments, civil society organizations, and businesses. Mission 4.7 aims to implement transformative education as outlined in SDG 4.7, mainly education for sustainable development, global citizenship education, climate education, and environmental education. Mission 4.7 also evaluates and monitors progress made under SDG 4.7.

The Maryland and Delaware Climate Change Education Assessment and Research (MADE CLEAR) is a collaborative initiative between the University of Maryland and the University of Delaware, funded by the National Science Foundation. The initiative focuses on understanding learning progressions and their applications across states for the Next Generation Science Standards, as well as state policies on student understanding of climate science and climate science education. Research on learning environments of K–12 and informal education will be conducted by a working group. The MADE CLEAR Learning Sciences Research Team piloted climate change education resources at the University of Maryland under science methods courses for teacher education. Resources included assessment instruments, lesson plans, and presentations. The Climate Change drawing assessment tool is used to assess the teacher intern’s understanding of climate change using drawing tools. Subjects such as sea level rise are also presented as assessment tools for teachers and their understanding of the subject matter through drawing tools.

ii. MECCE Project Monitoring

The Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communication and Education (MECCE) Project aimed to analyze the US National Curriculum Framework and Education Sector Plan for references to the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘environment,’ ‘sustainability,’ and ‘biodiversity.’ However, due to the federal governance system of the U.S., no such documents are issued at the federal level.

This section will be updated as the MECCE Project develops.

 

This profile was reviewed by Kristen Iverson Poppleton, Senior Director of Programs, Climate Generation/Co-chair CLEAN Network/Coordinating Member US ACE Coalition, and Meghan Fay Zahniser, Executive Director, AASHE.

Last modified:

Mon, 31/10/2022 - 17:10