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New survey aims to understand the local climate change message

Tropical storm Hermine’s approaching rain bands turned Bradenton roads into a series of flooded areas in 2016. School children wave and run alongside their bus as it travels down a flooded U.S. 41.
Tropical storm Hermine’s approaching rain bands turned Bradenton roads into a series of flooded areas in 2016. School children wave and run alongside their bus as it travels down a flooded U.S. 41. Herald file photo

A new questionnaire hopes to understand how local groups are getting across the message of climate change.

The Climate Council of Sarasota-Manatee, which was established by the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida last spring, suggests in a survey to more than 60 organizations — from municipalities to state departments to ecotourism groups to schools — “Let’s Join Voices for Climate Literacy.”

That survey, which will collect information until the end of the day Feb. 12, seeks to understand how, if at all, organizations educate their respective audiences on climate change, if they prioritize it and what their goals are. Part two of this process will be identifying the needs of each group, whether it’s designing education tools or helping find funding sources.

“We recognize that there could be a great benefit in collaborating on climate issues,” said the Science and Environment Council’s co-executive director Jennifer Shafer.

Climate is the average weather assigned to a region, so climate change is how the average changes. It encompasses a number of phenomena including sea level rise, drought, ocean acidification and more extreme natural disasters like hurricanes.

“Climate is a really complicated topic,” she said. “There’s many facets to it.”

Because there are so many local organizations sharing information about climate change, the group wants to understand the different ways organizations are talking about and have “a unified voice coming from multiple messengers in the community” backed in the most recent science.

“We felt it was important to kind of all get on the same page in regard to the messaging about the impact of climate,” Shafer said.

The Science and Environment Council is sponsored by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, New College of Florida, Pauline W. Joerger Family Fund and Block Family Foundation.

“I think the good news is we know there are a lot of groups who are doing this (messaging),” said Darcy Young, public outreach manager for the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, an organization also participating in the survey. “The pulse is pretty high right now of the number of residents who are aware of (climate change).”

Hannah Morse: 941-745-7055, @mannahhorse

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