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The North Texas region lags behind other large metropolitan areas in addressing climate change due in part to lack of public awareness. This project conducts a pilot study to assess the current environmental literacy of the general public and grade 4-5 in-service teachers and design and test a pilot education tool on climate science and stewardship in DFW toward the goal of developing an interdisciplinary education model to improve public understanding of climate-related extremes such as floods, droughts and heat waves for proactive community planning and action for improved resilience.
This project aims at improving understanding and awareness of climate-modulated extremes such as droughts, extreme precipitation, floods, and heat waves in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex (DFW) and surrounding areas in North Central Texas. DFW is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the US with over 6.8 million inhabitants in 2015. The population is expected to rise above 10 million by 2040. DFW has recently experienced extreme weather, water and climate events: record-breaking heat waves in 2011, one of the worst droughts in Texas history from 2010 to 2014, and record-breaking rainfall and resulting floods in 2015. Environmental changes due to rapidly growing population and associated urbanization amplify the risks from these extremes.
Despite large threats from extreme heat, drought, and wildfires, little action has been taken statewide to prepare for future climate-related vulnerabilities. Members of the project team surveyed the DFW general public and public school teachers as part of the project and found a lack of understanding of the link between global climate change and local extreme weather. While respondents generally agreed that behavior changes are necessary to improve local conditions, they are uncertain about what specific actions to take and how. To provide the population with a life-long foundation for scientific reasoning and decision-making on climate-related topics, early education is essential. Surveys by the project team reveal, however, that DFW teachers do not cover the material due to lack of training, access to local data, and mention in state education standards. To address the above needs, we develop a learning model which will increase understanding and awareness of extreme weather events, and foster community resiliency actions for DFW.
This research is supported by the Interdisciplinary Research Program of UTA. Drs. Seo and Winguth are also supported by the Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP) of the NOAA Climate Program Office (CPO) Grant NA15OAR4310109. These supports are gratefully acknowledged.