Climate Change and Cognition: Towards A Pedagogy

DeVincenzo, Joshua L.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP), and the Earth Institute of Columbia University launched the American Preparedness Project in order to survey public perceptions on disaster preparedness. The report found that 65% of Americans expressed worry that climate change will have an impact on their community's exposure to disasters. The NCDP recommended integrating the impact of climate change into communications and preparedness programs, given that a comprehensive understanding of the concerns of individuals and families is critical to emergency planning efforts. The NCDP adopted a user-centered design approach to create more informed risk communications and instructional decisions to work towards a pedagogy of climate change. Today, the NCDP deploys online and in-person trainings across the United States where the Center directly engages with the public on disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and resiliency. Leveraging these experiences, the NCDP collects data to analyze the learning efficacy of communication methods of disaster focused curricula. However, despite these strides toward a methodology of teaching climate change, there are several discrepancies in the U.S. public opinion on the degree of urgency in which to prepare for the risks of climate change. Discrepancies are tied to a multitude of factors including partisan affinity, dynamics of in-group or out-group, impersonal versus personal interaction, and perceived thresholds of distance and time. A key relationship between public discourse, cognition, and instruction are introduced in this paper to better set the foundation for a pedagogy of climate change. This paper also provides data-driven recommendations derived from satisfaction surveys and belief statements from learners that have participated in the NCDP's course content on climate change. The recommendations focus on risk communication strategies that can adequately address public opinion discrepancies on the risk of climate change, impact decision making, as well as improve learner understanding of climate change. The solution is not simply to provide more information but to evaluate how to implement different delivery methods aligned with public learning needs and capacities.


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Also Published In

Journal of International Affairs

More About This Work

Academic Units
National Center for Disaster Preparedness
Published Here
February 18, 2020