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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change

Leiserowitz, A. & Barstow, D. (2010) Education and communication. Chapter 8 in Liverman, D. et al., Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change. Washington, D.C., America’s Climate Choices Report, Panel on Informing Effective Decisions and Actions Related to Climate Change, National Academy of Sciences.

Education and communication are among the most powerful tools the nation has to bring hidden hazards to public attention, understanding, and action. Citizens, governments, and the private sector cannot factor climate change into their decisions without a reasonably accurate understanding of the problem. To make informed decisions, people must have at least a basic knowledge of the causes, likelihood, and severity of the impacts, and the range, cost, and efficacy of different options to limit or adapt to climate impacts.

To improve public understanding, natural and social scientists must play an active role in the dissemination of their findings about climate change. At the same time, both formal and informal educators must develop new ways to translate this information.The steps we describe here can help empower the nation’s present and future decision makers with the basic knowledge required to make informed choices. Although there are many other important approaches, we focus here on three specific areas: climate change education in the classroom, for the general public, and for decision makers.

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