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University of San Diego’s Climate Education Partners Awarded Five Million Dollar Science Education Grant

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- (September 11, 2012) – The University of San Diego (USD) today announced a five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant given to each of only six recipients nationwide who will help implement educational collaborations centered on increasing public understanding of climate science and its impacts on quality of life. Awarded under the NSF's Climate Change Education Partnership (CCEP) program, these partnership grants of nearly $5 million are designed to connect climate scientists, educators and community leaders in creating innovative and transformative education and communication strategies with potential regional and national import.

Climate Education Partners, the group coordinating the effort in the San Diego region, is working with local expert scientists, educators and a wide range of community leaders and their constituencies in seeking solutions and helping San Diegans learn more about how to better prepare for and respond to the impacts of a changing climate on the region's natural resources, economy, tourism and quality of life.

"We will be working closely with a wide range of community leaders from across the region – including elected officials, the Latino community, the real estate development community, faith-based, healthcare, tribal communities and others -- to develop a communication and education program that reflects the views, values and perspectives of the region's political, business and community leaders," stated Michel Boudrias, Ph.D., lead scientist and professor of Marine Science and Environmental Studies at USD. "By working with local expert scientists, educators and a wide range of community leaders, Climate Education Partners will be seeking solutions and helping San Diegans learn more about climate change impacts on our quality of life so we can prepare for and respond to a changing climate."

The NSF grant represents an investment in education that underscores the importance of California's resources, including its coastline, beaches, bays, deserts and mountains, and the important role they play in contributing to the region's and the state's economy. Working together with leaders in the region and the state, Climate Education Partners hopes to lead the way to prepare for climate change, sustain regional quality of life and economic vibrancy and preserve San Diego County's and California's spectacular natural beauty, not just today, but for all future generations, consistent with Californians long-standing pioneering and innovative vision for the state's natural resources.

Climate Education Partners will develop a model for understanding climate science by working with key influentials (leaders and decision-makers from throughout the region) and the general public in the San Diego region. The impacts of a changing climate could include issues such as safeguarding clean air, drinking water and the beaches, bays, mountains, ocean and deserts that define the region. Challenges are already occurring that affect the region's natural resources, tourism and the economy, including hotter and drier climates, water shortages, more frequent and intense wild fires and increasing energy needs.

"This phase II award underscores the importance of this issue to the San Diego region," announced USD President Mary E. Lyons. "We know San Diegans from all walks of life are proud of our natural environment, value our leadership as a region and are committed to preserving our quality of life. The University of San Diego is honored to play a role as part of the Climate Education Partners team that will allow our region to help lead the nation in education and understanding about the impacts of climate change on our daily lives, including our economy, clean air, drinking water and our beaches, bays, mountains, ocean and deserts."

Educational efforts will include: (1) developing climate science education resources for adults outside traditional classroom settings, (2) collaborating with key influentials and their communities using these resources, (3) assessing the effectiveness of these resources and innovative educational learning methods, and (4) reaching out to other regions to assist with their community education and collaboration efforts. The project is expected to build regional knowledge and understanding of how to work with community leaders and non-school- or college-aged community members about locally relevant, cutting-edge climate science. Educational activities are expected to have broad impacts by working with regional leaders as educators themselves and with their impacts on much larger groups throughout the region.

"The NSF Climate Change Education Partnership five-year award of almost $5 million will be used to implement a regional climate change communication program that promotes education, awareness, innovation and action," stated local businessman and long-time community leader Mike McDade, chairman of the Climate Education Partners' External Advisory Board. "Working with other community leaders in areas such as healthcare, education, government, business, real estate, air quality and regional planning, we hope to design a way unique to the San Diego region that will serve as a model for the nation on how to help a region understand, dialogue about and deal with the impacts of a changing climate."

The NSF's national CCEP portfolio encompasses a major interdisciplinary research and development effort designed to promote deeper understanding of, and engagement with, climate science and the impacts of climate change on natural and human systems. The program's vision is to promote a scientifically knowledgeable society that can effectively weigh the evidence regarding global climate change as it confronts regional challenges. The program includes preparing an innovative scientific and technical workforce to advance knowledge of human-climate interactions and develop approaches for the nation's sustainable, prosperous future. With its focus on interdisciplinary approaches and transformative scales of impact, the CCEP program occupies a unique and complementary niche in the group of federal investments related to climate science education and workforce development.

The University of San Diego's project team includes scientists from Marine Science and Environmental Studies at USD and at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, policy experts from the Energy Policy Initiative Center at USD, social and behavioral psychologists from California State University San Marcos, strategic community planners from The San Diego Foundation and strategic communication experts from The Steve Alexander Group.

"The city of San Diego looks forward to continued participation in the University of San Diego's program," said city of San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. "Recent peaks in energy usage from an unusually hot summer are a concern to all of us. We know our citizens want to learn more about what they can do to prepare for and respond to these very real issues. We hope to play a leadership role as a region as we seek effective government policy, working with regional leaders, local science experts and the community, to maintain the quality of life for our region while optimizing opportunities to strengthen our economy."

"This award is a continued recognition of the work Climate Education Partners is doing on behalf of our region and the state of California," said Chairman Ron Roberts of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. "As a member of the California Air Resources Board, I understand the importance of working collaboratively on air quality and emission programs. Climate Education Partners includes climate scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and social psychologists from California State University San Marcos who can help us address those issues as a region while serving as a model for other communities across the state."

While communication strategies and climate science education are keys to the success of the grant, the ultimate goal is to develop and implement programs that will benefit the region by promoting responses to climate change and its impacts on public health, drinking water, clean air, beaches, bays, mountains and deserts, the economy and tourism. You can find more information about the project at the Climate Education Partners website.

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