2061 Connections
An electronic newsletter for the science education community

March 2010

AAAS Conference Fosters Climate Literacy

Noted historian of science Naomi Oreskes and renowned climate scientists Richard Somerville and Ken Caldeira were among the featured speakers at a two-day conference devoted to the issue of climate literacy and how to foster it through a wide range of informal science learning experiences and venues.

Supported with a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), AAAS’s Project 2061 and Education and Human Resources Directorate—in collaboration with the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography—brought together more than 150 educators from science centers, museums, zoos, and aquariums; media projects; and community programs to learn more about climate change science and public outreach on this important issue. The invitational conference took place in San Diego on February 17–18, and many of the Climate Literacy Conference participants were able to stay on to attend the 2010 AAAS Annual Meeting that followed.

Day One of the conference was hosted by the Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Seaside Forum overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Beginning with updates on and examples of the evidence for human-induced climate change, the day included discussions of the latest data from the Pew Research Center, Public Agenda, and the Yale Climate Change Project on the knowledge, values, beliefs, and concerns that shape the public’s understanding of climate change and attitudes toward it. With those public perceptions of the issue in mind, a panel of experts in framing science through print, exhibits, film, online, and other media and experiences provided new perspectives for engaging public audiences in the issue.

Day 1 Day 2

Informal science educators gather at the Climate Literacy Conference.

Day Two took place at the San Diego Convention Center and focused on defining climate literacy goals for what they might look like—whether in terms of conceptual knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, or other kinds of possible outcomes—and then considered what those goals entail in terms of learning in informal environments. Panelists from both formal and informal science education and from science centers, aquariums, and zoos led discussions of the opportunities and challenges for public engagement and understanding.

Against the backdrop of the upcoming 2010 San Diego Science Festival, members of the final panel emphasized the need to work more deeply and broadly within communities to increase the overall level of science literacy and of public engagement and participation in climate science. Both days of the conference offered participants time to reflect on what they were learning and to begin to build new collaborations across disciplines, institutions and programs, and media and environments.  

View the full agenda with links to the speakers’ presentations.

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For more information about the AAAS Climate Literacy Conference, please contact:

Director: Dr. Jo Ellen Roseman, (202) 326-6752
Communications Director: Mary Koppal, (202) 326-6643

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