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July - August 2005

New SERE center emphasizes climate education


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Mickey Glantz. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

Senior scientist Mickey Glantz has long recognized that climate and weather interact with society in profound ways. He is traveling around much of the globe to persuade professors in various disciplines to teach about these interactions.

"You've got professors at one end who are already teaching about the impacts of weather and climate, and those at the other end who aren't interested," Mickey explains. "My focus is on the middle. They may be interested in climate, but they don't know much about it."

Recognizing the importance of incorporating climate and weather into undergraduate classes, NCAR has named Mickey the director of the newly created Center for Capacity Building. CCB's mission is to raise awareness worldwide about the impacts of climate and weather on society. "The new center will help society better understand the impacts of climate and weather and take appropriate action," says Diana Josephson, NCAR associate director for the Societal-Environmental Research and Education Laboratory.

The center is one of three entities within SERE, which was created last year as part of the NCAR reorganization. The other two entities are the Advanced Study Program and the Institute for the Study of Society and Environment (formerly the Environmental and Societal Impacts Group).

The new center, which is derived from ISSE and other groups, has been created with pre-existing funding. CCB has about a half-dozen staffers, including part-time researchers and an administrator, DJan Stewart, who moved over from ISSE. It is co-located with ISSE in FL1.

Climate affairs

A political scientist, Mickey has investigated the societal impacts of weather and climate since coming to NCAR as a postdoc in 1974. At CCB, he will pour much of his energy into refining and promoting a multidisciplinary course of study that he created, called climate affairs, that explores the sensitive interplay among climate, people, and the environment. Climate affairs is designed to prepare undergraduate and graduate students for diverse roles in government and industry and to stress the importance for societal leaders to take climate and weather into account when making decisions for the future.

The climate affairs approach is catching on. Columbia University launched a master's program last year on the topic after a number of meetings with Mickey. In addition, the University of Malaya has just opened a center for climate affairs, and other institutions, including the Chinese Meteorological Administration, are considering developing climate affairs activities.

The concept of climate affairs can be used as a template for related courses, such as water, weather, or coastal urban affairs, that examine climate, society, and natural resources. China's Xinjiang University, for example, has established an International Center for Desert Affairs, thanks to CCB's Qian Ye and Colorado State University professor Wei Gao (formerly in ESIG).

CCB will also focus on "inreach activities"—working with scientists across NCAR and UCAR who are researching topics with societal implications.

Mickey describes himself as a "minimalist" who doesn't measure success by the number of degree programs created in climate affairs. His goal is to increase awareness about the importance of climate and weather—which could mean a multidisciplinary seminar, a certificate program, or an undergraduate minor.

"We want to create awareness about the value of including climate and climate-related issues in courses," he says. "Climate and weather affect everything. By learning about climate affairs, these students will be better citizens."

• by David Hosansky

On the Web

Center for Capacity Building


Also in this issue...

A global view

Six new senior scientists named

SOARS marks 10th anniversary

Engaging science students

Pedaling for a cause

New SERE center emphasizes climate education

Fellowship honors a unique research partnership

HAO moves to CG1

Just One Look


 

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