Using Scientific Conferences to Engage the Public on Climate Change

Hicke, Jeffrey A. ; Abatzoglou, John T. ; Daley-Laursen, Steven ; Esler, Jamie ; Parker, Lauren E.

Année de publication
Climate change is often perceived as controversial in the public's view. One meaningful way scientists can address this problem is to engage with the public to increase understanding of climate change. Attendees of scientific conferences address climate change within meetings yet rarely interact with the public as part of conference attendance. Here, we describe outreach (sending experts into the community) and inreach (bringing the public to a conference) activities at the 2015 Northwest Climate Conference in Idaho that were designed to increase the local community's understanding of climate change and foster interaction between scientists and the public. Conference attendees volunteered to visit community schools and civic groups to give presentations and engage in a discussion on climate change. We designed a well-attended evening plenary session for the public that featured an experienced speaker who described local climate change impacts important to the community. Local high school students attended the conference, and several were mentored by conference attendees. We reached an estimated 1,000 students and 500 other members of the public in person and many others via advertising and newspaper articles. Keys to our success were local contacts with excellent connections to schools, civic organizations, local government officials, interest groups, and a pool of motivated, enthusiastic conference attendees who were already traveling to the area. We encourage other conference organizers to consider these activities in their future meetings to increase public knowledge of climate change, particularly given the urgency of action needed to limit future climate change and its impacts.

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