CV-CAT will help Extension educators integrate climate change into programs

Excuse the pun, but climate change is a hot topic. Increasingly, our stakeholders and our funding partners look to Michigan State University Extension as a trusted source of information on how to slow down, adapt to and communicate about the changing climate. The long-term impacts of climate change and the shorter term effects of climate variability vary widely, ranging from changes in precipitation, pests, water and air quality to storm water runoff, forest ecology and species migration. And, as we’re all aware, the topic can be controversial. That’s why Julie Doll, MSU Kellogg Biological Station Long-term Ecological Research Program outreach and education coordinator, and Claire Layman, public policy education specialist in the Greening Michigan Institute, embarked on a listening tour to discover what one group of stakeholders – those involved in field crop agriculture – thought MSU Extension should do to help farmers prepare for the changing physical and policy climates.

 Julie and Claire brought their focus group results to field crop educators in March 2011. They paired delivery of the focus group results with a workshop on climate science, led by Dr. Jeff Andresen, state climatologist and associate professor in MSU’s Department of Geography. At the conclusion of the two-day workshop, participants came to agreement that MSU Extension should increase the climate literacy of its educators and their clients.

 As a result, the Climate Variability and Change Action Team (CV-CAT) formed with members across all of our institutes and from other Extension affiliates. Current members of the team include Julie and Claire; Dr. Andresen; Jake DeDecker and Brian Wibby, Children and Youth Institute; Becky Henne and Brenda Long, Health and Nutrition Institute; Chuck Pistis, Sea Grant; and Dennis Pennington, George Silva and Marilyn Thelen, Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute.

 The CV-CAT has sponsored three fact sheets available at the MSU Extension Bookstore: (Greenhouse Gas Basics, Field Crop Agriculture and Climate Change and Frequently Asked Questions about Climate Change). In addition, they are co-hosting a face-to-face session at Fall Extension Conference on climate and water. Panelists and individual speakers will provide overviews of the water and climate systems, lead a discussion on how climate variability and change may affect Michigan communities, land systems and agriculture, and consider how to find common ground on this politically polarizing topic. Read the summary for the FEC11 session, “Climate and Water: Implications for MSU Extension Programs,” here. The live face-to-face session takes place Oct. 12 from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

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