Climate Conversations: Engaging the Community in Discussions of Climate Change

Authors: Dan Bedford*, Weber State University, Alice Mulder*, Weber State University
Topics: Environment, Climatology and Meteorology, Global Change
Keywords: climate change; outreach; community engagement
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom B, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Public opinion surveys consistently find that members of the public are poorly informed about numerous aspects of climate change. For example, a widespread perception is that climate change poses a threat to people and places remote in space and/or time; the strength of the scientific consensus on climate change is consistently underestimated; and knowledge of the basic science of climate change is generally poor. This situation has led to calls for improved communication between experts and the public. These calls have been answered by faculty and staff at Weber State University, a medium-sized, primarily undergraduate, open enrollment institution located in northern Utah. In 2015, the university established SPARC, the Sustainability Practices and Research Center. SPARC engages in community outreach around practical individual actions to address climate change (such as solar panel installation, electric vehicle purchase, energy efficiency for low-income housing), and organizes informational events for the community where climate change is either the focus or a strong element. This paper outlines the origins and activities of SPARC, and presents case studies of outreach activities, including community solar and electric vehicle programs, visiting speakers, climate change workshops for the general public and local K-12 teachers, and an annual conference, the Intermountain Sustainability Summit. The role of Geography and geographers is significant. The effectiveness of these activities is discussed; however, because these activities are taking place in a sociopolitical context that might be expected to be hostile to them, in some respects they are successful simply by taking place.

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