16 October, 2009

Climate Change and the Public

Crooks and Liars has an excellent article up on climate change literacy and getting the public involved.  I think it can easily be extrapolated to public science literacy in general. 
Dimensions of Climate Literacy: What Do We Want the Public to Learn?

There needs to be more focus and clarity about the goals and outcomes of public engagement and communication, even down to the most basic questions as to what do we want citizens to learn about climate change? Or put another way, what dimensions of knowledge matter to public engagement and participation?

Unfortunately, well intentioned commentatorshave confused the important distinctions on science literacy to the point that the term has lost its meaning in popular discussion. Yet based on the relevant literature in science communication, below are several dimensions of climate change literacy and knowledge that are likely to matter to public engagement.

Participatory knowledge refers to information and details on how a citizen can get involved and have a say in decisions that are made about climate change at the community or national level. Civic education on climate change makes it easier for community members to voice their preferences, draw attention to perceived problems, and to express their ideas on possible solutions. Emphasizing this dimension of knowledge promotes a two-way exchange of information between experts and the public. Knowledge conveyed to the public might include the range of organizations in their community that are working on climate policy; upcoming major events, decisions, or meetings; and the names and contact information of key government organizations and officials. Web sites that make contacts and participation easier through direct email links or displaying maps for event locations would also reduce barriers to participations.

Consider that the recent Six Americas of Climate Change survey found that more than 90% of Americans had never written, emailed, or phoned a government official about the issue. When respondents were then asked about the reasons that prevented them from participating more frequently, 17% simply said they "didn't know how" while another 16% said it "took too much effort."

More where that comes from, all of it good.  Enjoy, my darlings.

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