The vast majority of climate scientists agree that our planet is warming and that human activities are the primary cause. In spite of this consensus, several studies have shown that the public does not understand that there is general agreement among experts, nor do they understand the science of climate change. This consensus gap is significant because research shows that people are more likely to support policy actions to reduce carbon emissions if they are aware of the overwhelming agreement among experts that humans are causing climate change.
At Lyndon, we understand that climate change presents humankind with a monumental challenge. We think it is crucial for today’s scientists to instill a sense of urgency for climate change action by educating the general public and key decision makers. This type of engagement is beyond what is traditionally expected of scientists and takes a tremendous amount of passion and courage. We therefore provide our students with many opportunities to learn about and practice effective climate change communication skills. This is done through:
- contributions to www.TheClimateConsensus.com
- the Climate Change Communication (CCC) group
- visits to local schools
- community outreach
- in-class projects
- presentations at national meetings
The Climate Consensus project
In January 2017, we launched a website called TheClimateConsensus.com The mission of The Climate Consensus project is to educate others about the real science behind climate change. The Climate Consensus provides a platform for students, scientists, and organizations to produce and distribute clear and engaging data visualizations, informed discussions, and research findings about human-caused climate change. Like The Climate Consensus on Facebook, and follow The Climate Consensus on Twitter.
Climate Change Communication (CCC) group
The Climate Change Communication (CCC) group was established in 2014 by Lyndon State College students and faculty with two goals:
- teach undergraduate students about effective ways to communicate basic climate science and the scientific consensus about climate change to non-scientists
- Improve public understanding of climate change science and the consensus gap while starting a conversation among young people in the community
Climate Change Communication group meetings
The CCC group meets monthly during the school year to discuss current events involving climate change and their impacts and to learn about ways to effectively communicate these ideas to non-scientists. The group often invites guest speakers. Past speakers have included: Dr. Alan Betts and Dr. Ben Luce.
Visits to local schools
Students in the CCC group have visited several local schools including Lyndon Institute, Newark Street School, Burke Town School, and Danville School. Visits to the Concord School and the Danville School were covered by Lyndon's News7 team. Often, grade school students are not taught climate change science, and these classroom visits helped to teach them about topics such as the greenhouse effect, rising oceans, and more. These visits are also an excellent opportunity for the students in the CCC group to practice explaining the facts to non-scientists.
Climate Change Communication group members have engaged in a variety of community outreach activities including visiting a church, attending the Youth Rally for the Planet in Montpelier, and the Youth Environmental Summit in Barre.
Climate Change Communication on social media
The Climate Change Communication group has a Climate Change Communication Facebook group to share current climate change news with the community and other scientists.
At Lyndon, we think scientists should be part of the solution. Many of our students have participated in peaceful demonstrations to promote climate change action. For example, on April 29, 2017, twenty-four Lyndon State College Atmospheric Science Department students joined over 200,000 others for the People's Climate March in Washington, DC. The goal was to pressure world leaders to act on climate change, as a direct response to a distressing reality -- while climate change is often talked about as a future problem, it is actually a current problem.
Communication among experts is crucial for the advancement of scientific understanding, but communication with non-scientists is necessary for climate change action. Atmospheric Science Department courses provide a platform for young scientists to practice the important skill of informal climate change communication.
Presentations at national meetings
Interest in climate change communication is strong among higher education institutions across the country. Atmospheric Science faculty have highlighted student outreach efforts at national 2015 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting and the 2017 American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting
Climate Courage Awards
In recognition of our students’ outreach efforts, local Vermont residents have established the Climate Courage Awards. These are given annually to graduating Atmospheric Sciences or Climate Change Science seniors who have:
- accepted the responsibility to educate others about the urgency of climate change action,
- engaged with members of the community such as students, meteorologists, business leaders, and/or government officials,
- demonstrated passion for decarbonizing our global energy system by advocating for a clean energy future based on renewable sources, and
- expressed commitment to continued climate change advocacy as described in a two-page essay
- Climate Change Courage award recipients will be announced at the Robing Ceremony in May.
Why students participate in these efforts
"This is really important to me because I want to try and combat climate change in as many ways as I can..." - Arianna Varuolo-Clarke, Class of 2016 (founding student member)
"I wanted to educate the public on climate change in hopes that we may see a change in our agricultural system, fossil fuel consumption, and other areas that have a high impact on climate change." - Kayla St. Germain, Class of 2015 (founding student member)
"...it is a huge problem that not enough people care about... You have to find a careful balance that makes them care without scaring them and I wanted to be a part of this challenge and this process." - Jacqueline Laviolette, Class of 2015
“I love interacting with younger students because of their eagerness to learn, so being able to share my knowledge of climate change with them gives me a lot of joy.” - Lauriana Gaudet, Class of 2016
“The whole reason I am going to school is to learn how to keep the planet a better place for people after me, by using science. Climate change communication is a huge part of this.” - Melissa Segall, Class of 2016
“I joined CCC to learn more about climate change and how to communicate it to the general public. I also wanted to get to know others who had similar interests to me." - Allison LaFleur, Class of 2016
"The group has helped me learn more about climate change and I've been able to use a lot of the information learned form the group when talking to friends and family about climate change." - Jeremy Sousa, Class of 2017
"I feel more confident about my understanding of climate change so I feel more comfortable asserting and explaining myself in conversations."
"The more I discuss and answer questions on climate change to an audience of non-scientists, the more comfortable I become in presenting and answering questions."
"Instead of shying away from this controversial topic, I now welcome conversations about climate change from my family and friends who do not 'believe' in climate change."