National Parks serve as outdoor classrooms to educate our staff and the public about climate change. Photo by NPS.
"One of the most precious values of the national parks is their ability to teach us about ourselves and how we relate to the natural world. This important role may prove invaluable in the near future as we strive to understand and adapt to a changing climate" — Jon Jarvis, October 28, 2009
National parks provide opportunities to engage citizens of all ages in experiencing the wonders of these areas. These natural classrooms offer a direct view into our cultural heritage and wild riches, through which the public can come to understand how climate change is altering the places we love. From this vantage point, and aided by a cadre of communication professionals dedicated to connecting parks to the public, the National Park Service (NPS) is uniquely positioned to touch many of the nearly 300 million visitors a year that come to national parks.
Seeing climate impacts first-hand, and developing an understanding about how climate change directly impacts nearby or beloved resources, are essential to develop a public that is engaged with national parks, supportive of climate change response, and motivated to take practical action to become climate friendly.
Education and Communication Goals
We must learn effective strategies for conveying accurate information to a wide range of audiences, facilitate dialog about possible climate change scenarios, encourage sustainability, and provide services that empower individuals to achieve solutions. Education and communication should address visitor interests as well as that of our partners and employees. Four goals will guide climate change communication and education in the parks:
- Coordinate and distribute climate change information throughout the National Park Service.
To manage the rapidly growing volume of climate science, the NPS will develop many different types of interpretive products to reach diverse audiences. We will collaborate with experts to produce management strategies and summaries of relevant research; and further communication of the issue among NPS staff.
- Increase climate change knowledge and understanding within the National Park Service.
NPS leadership will regularly emphasize and highlight climate change information in internal communications and will train employees in climate change competencies to create a workforce of climate response champions.
- Provide external communications about the implications of climate change and the NPS response.
To communicate with our partners and the public, we will develop key messages on climate change, provide guidance on their use, and assist parks with presenting an accurate and consistent servicewide message. A broad range of interpretive communication products will be developed to inform general audiences about the impact of climate change to parks, and climate-friendly practices. Special attention will be given to learning opportunities for teachers and students, and youth involvement in climate change projects.
- Model and communicate sustainable practices that lead by example.
Demonstration projects within park not only serve to meet our obligation to mitigate climate impacts, but also show the public what they can accomplish. Experience gained by the NPS in the Climate Friendly Parks Program will be condensed into a "Do Your Part" campaign that encourages visitor opportunities to reduce their carbon footprint.
The Climate Change Response Program utilizes many different avenues to get information, science, and ideas out to our staff and partners. We distribute a monthly newsletter, we also host monthly webinars that feature top climate scientists or communicators, and we have developed bioregional talking points that synthesize the climate science in each region. Our Useful Resources
page has a list of websites that represent information that is relevant to climate change and the National Park System. Visit our Climate Change Myths
page to learn more about the common myths of climate change.
Here are suggested links to learn more about climate change adaptation or how other agencies are addressing this topic: