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Climate literacy is becoming a crucial issue. Improved education and outreach are necessary to minimize the impacts of climate-related issues facing communities. Efforts to increase climate literacy are globally underway, yet more must be done. Climate and weather variability affects every facet of life for families, businesses, and the environment. Flooding, severe droughts, hurricanes, heat waves, and wildfires are just a few of our everyday climatic obstacles. Unfortunately, they will continue to present challenges for communities worldwide, especially in vulnerable communities. Hence, the need to become more climate resilient is at an all-time high.

Our capacity to recover from adverse events like tornados is essential. We must be able to discuss preparations early on and adapt recovery strategies and solutions that work. In short, climate resiliency must be enhanced so that individuals are better prepared to develop and implement appropriate strategies.

Climate Literacy

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), climate literacy entails understanding your impact on climate and its effects on you, society, or humankind. NOAA defines a climate-literate individual as one who:

  • comprehends the vital principles of Earth’s climate system
  • knows how to evaluate scientifically credible climate data
  • speaks about climate-related issues in an expressive way
  • makes informed and reliable determinations regarding actions that may influence climate

Educating our youth is important because they will inherit the planet we leave behind. They should be climate literate and develop a real connection to the environment early in life. This instills a strong desire to safeguard their future and the planet. According to a teen environmental impact survey conducted by the National 4-H Council in partnership with the Harris Poll, 89 percent of teens regularly think about the environment, and many feel more worried than hopeful; 69 percent of teens surveyed were concerned that they or their families would be affected by climate-related issues in the near future. Eighty-four percent felt it might negatively affect future generations if more isn’t done to address climate-related problems today. Contrastingly, the survey also revealed that the teens were optimistic and felt empowered to affect change, with 77 percent expressing that they felt responsible for protecting the future of our planet.

Extension Climate Initiative

What can Alabama Extension do to advance climate literacy and education? We can begin by learning more about the National Extension Climate Initiative (NECI), formed in 2019 by Extension faculty and staff. These individuals felt more concerted efforts were required, both regionally and nationally, to better manage climate outreach activities, provide resources, deliver networking opportunities, and facilitate professional development.

In 2021, the National Extension Climate Initiative (NECI) and several partners held a 3-Day Action Forum entitled “Climate Change in Extension: Elevating and Amplifying Action.” This virtual forum brought together a host of professionals, including national and state Extension leaders, federal representatives, and researchers. The main topic of discussion was what the Cooperative Extension System could do to increase climate-related programming. The forum featured a diverse group of panelists and presenters, including individuals from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Office of Energy and Environmental Policy (OEEP). In addition, the forum offered several opportunities to discuss climate-related issues, including breakout rooms and open Q&A sessions. Overall, it allowed professional growth in this increasingly important area.

What Can We Do?

In summary, Cooperative Extension is poised to make significant contributions as we move forward in improving both climate literacy and resiliency. Just think, if you encourage just one person a day to conserve water, save energy, recycle, or create a disaster preparedness plan, the impact will be significant. NECI is an excellent place to immerse yourself, gathering educational information and resources that will better enable you as an Extension professional to move forward in advancing climate literacy through Extension and outreach. So, let’s get started today, helping everyone adopt a greener lifestyle for a better tomorrow.

More Information

For more information about NECI or the three-day Forum, please visit https://nationalextensionclimateinitiative.net/.