URI awarded $1 million grant to lead national climate change education initiative

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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – July 11, 2013 – The University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) has been awarded a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to serve as the national hub for the Climate Change Education Partnership Alliance. The grant will enable the University to build a network of climate change scientists, educators, communication professionals, and government and private-sector stakeholders to educate the public about the science of climate change and its implications.

“We are very honored to have been selected by NSF for this important role,” said Alliance Director Gail Scowcroft, a former climate scientist who has led marine science and climate change education programs at GSO since the 1990s. “I am looking forward to building this network and supporting climate change education, which will enhance the scientific literacy of our citizenry and decision makers.”

The National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration are collaborating to coordinate their respective climate change education programs through a tri-agency initiative, which Scowcroft and her team will join. NSF’s six regional climate change partnerships around the country are each comprised of universities, science centers, regional agencies, and communications programs. The GSO hub will serve to link these regional efforts, initiate cross-region activities, and leverage additional funding.

“We’re going to act as the catalyzing agent for activities that would not take place if there wasn’t an established hub,” Scowcroft said. “We’re going to help the regional partnerships share resources and best practices in climate change education between themselves and with other groups across the country.”

The first national meeting of the Alliance was held at the Graduate School of Oceanography last month to develop a strategic plan for building the Alliance and prioritize activities for the coming year. Among Scowcroft’s first priorities is the development of infrastructure to support Alliance activities. She also intends to build a broader funding base and establish additional regional programs, including one in the Gulf States.

“There are obvious political challenges to promoting the science of climate change, but it’s important that we do it now,” she said. “We may take some heat for it occasionally, however, the foundation of the Alliance is peer-reviewed scientific research. Climate science is based on numbers, models, and data; it’s not about consensus and debate.”