Kratsch, H., Cobourn, J., Chichester, L. and Ormerod, K. 2020, Climate Science Readiness and Training Needs of Nevada Extension Professionals, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, SP-20-08

Introduction

In 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) created a network of regional Climate Hubs to deliver science-based information for climate-informed decision-making by developing practical, region-specific information and technologies for local-level stakeholders (USDA Climate Hubs, n.d.). The Climate Hubs chose Cooperative Extension to be the outreach arm for their research.

In 2016, faculty from University of Nevada, Reno Extension partnered with Extension professionals in other southwest U.S. states and the USDA Southwest Climate Hub to organize a workshop for Extension professionals on the campus of The University of Arizona. The goals of the workshop were to identify the appropriate role for Extension to respond to climate change and to examine and improve Extension’s capacity to address climate change at the local/state level (USDA Southwest Climate Hub, n.d.). The primary outcome of the 2016 workshop was establishment of the Southwest Extension Climate Partnership, supported by the USDA Southwest Climate Hub and created to facilitate sharing lessons learned from the separate climate change efforts of faculty from different western U.S. states. A secondary outcome was initiation of a plan to survey Nevada Extension professionals regarding the need for climate science education of constituents. This publication represents a summary of the results of that survey.

The two main categories of responses to climate change are adaptation and mitigation. Adaptation involves efforts to increase resilience to actual or expected climate change impacts, while not necessarily dealing with the underlying cause. Mitigation involves reducing the magnitude of climate change itself, primarily focusing on reducing emissions from burning fossil fuels and/or increasing carbon sequestration and storage (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007). It is important for Extension professionals to understand these concepts as they develop programs that incorporate climate change information. Members of some audience groups may be reluctant to accept the idea of mitigation, while recognizing the practical need to adapt to changes they can readily observe and that may affect their livelihood. For that reason, it is suggested that climate change education to such groups should focus on interventions that have both adaptive and mitigative effects (Arbuckle et al., 2015).

Conclusions

Our survey results signified the desire of many Nevada Extension faculty and staff to incorporate climate change and climate science information into their local programming. They were also eager to receive training to increase their climate science literacy. While many Extension professionals in Nevada want to serve community needs in regard to climate change, some are hesitant to incorporate climate information due to a lack of training in basic climate science and/or access to information. Overall interest in climate change information is high among Nevada Extension professionals, and there is strong support for getting started. The success of this endeavor will be enhanced by building collaborative relationships across the region, such as engaging with the Southwest Extension Climate Partnership; forging better campus-county connections; and continuing ongoing communication among federal, state and local partners.

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Extension Director's Office | On the campus of University of Nevada, Reno