Professional Societies and Climate Change

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Researchers: U.S. professional societies move to make climate change a component of education, outreach

January 18, 2017 3:45 PM EST via Kresge Foundation

Most urban-focused professional societies in the United States are educating their members on climate change issues, but few have adopted a holistic approach that includes adaptation, mitigation and the explicit recognition of social justice implications, according to a new report commissioned by The Kresge Foundation.

The global climate is changing, leading to impacts that are already being felt across the United States.  To prevent the worst impacts and prepare for unavoidable changes, individuals from different professions, backgrounds, and areas of expertise need to integrate climate change into their thinking and decision making.

The report, “Professional Societies and Climate Change,” analyzes the extent to which that is happening inside organizations that provide education and resources for professions as varied as engineering, municipal planning and medicine. Researchers found that the professional societies most engaged on climate issues recognize the substantial impacts that climate change has on their missions and membership.

“Professional societies play a critical role in educating their members on emerging issues and establishing standards of practice.  It’s heartening to see the depth of programming on climate change that some societies are offering,” said Lois DeBacker, managing director of Kresge’s Environment Program.  “Professionals increasingly recognize that the decisions they make can accelerate or slow greenhouse gas emissions, and also affect how well society prepares for climate impacts. Membership organizations are well positioned to speed the mainstreaming of climate considerations into decision making at the local level.”

The report was authored by independent climate adaptation consultant Dr. Missy Stults and Ph.D. researcher and consultant Sara Meerow.