Climate Change Education and Parks

The Institute at the Golden Gate’s Climate Change Education & Parks program supports and accelerates the role parks and protected areas play as resources and venues for climate change education.

Worldwide, parks are on the frontline of climate change impacts and visibility. The National Park Service and many other park agencies in the U.S. and internationally are taking serious action on climate change—planning mitigation strategies and adaptation responses to local environmental changes. Park leaders and interpreters are also using this as an opportunity to engage the public on this critical issue. The Institute believes this public engagement is vital and our goal is to support a sea change in policy and practice in the way climate change is communicated to park visitors.

In the U.S. alone, nearly 300 million people visit national parks each year and millions more visit city, state, and other parks. Many learn about climate change during their visit to the park, though many still do not. The Institute views park visits as an opportunity for parks to communicate with a massive public audience about the impacts of climate change in a manner that is relevant to visitor’s daily lives and the places they live.

The Institute’s Climate Change Education & Parks program (PDF) seeks to strengthen parks as educational venues by identifying program, models, and policies that can be replicated, scaled, and adopted as policy by key decision makers.

Many parks already host or are developing climate change education programs that are innovative, locally relevant, and action-oriented. The Institute’s signature climate change publication, Climate in the Parks: Innovative Climate Change Education in Parks (PDF, 5.7MB) will add momentum to the dialogue among key stakeholders, educators, and park leaders by identifying a selection of strong climate change education programs and trainings in parks around the world.

The Institute will continue to use our strong convening power to create high-level, cross-sector events that will identify new models and methods for using parks as important educational tools on climate change. These efforts will be complemented by local pilot-testing of identified best policies and practices to generate proof of concept that park-based climate education programs are effective, replicable, and scalable.

To support the continued evolution of parks and public spaces as resources for climate change education, the Institute will convene Parks: The New Climate Classroom, our premier conference on climate change communication, Nov. 7–8, 2013 at Cavallo Point Lodge in San Francisco. This invitation-only event will bring together innovators and practitioners from the parks, education, communications, and other related fields to consider ways to accelerate and deepen the connection between parks and public education on climate change.

For more information, email or visit the Institute's community hub.