King Community Engaged in Discussion on Climate Change


On Tuesday, April 18, the King Parents' Association Health & Sustainable Living Committee hosted Jennifer Marlon, Ph.D., a research scientist at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication who presented her research "Change in the American Mind: Communication Opportunities and Challenges." Over the past 8 years, Dr. Marlon and her peers have surveyed over 18,000 Americans to understand how people perceive climate change, their motivations as well as concerns with different climate change solutions.

Dr. Marlon presented her research which included not only trends in American public opinion but also true climate change data including over 420,000 years of greenhouse gas and temperature changes as well as projected climate change affects to the United States over the next 40 years.

Although the American public doesn't agree on all aspects of climate change, the session ended on a positive note - there's hope. There actually are a number of areas where everyone agrees for example investing in renewable energy research and hybrid vehicles. The most recent data shows that 70% of Americans believe that global warming is happening; a number that has steadily increased over the past several years. In addition, a growing number of Americans labeled themselves as "very" worried about global warming. However, it was clear that there is still much to be done to change perceptions, policies and, ultimately, the environmental impacts of climate change. To view interactive maps on U.S. Climate Opinions, visit the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication website.

Laura Bowe, Upper School History and Social Sciences Faculty, decided to attend the event to support an independent study for Grade 11 students, Callie DiModica and Emma Schaeffer, entitled "Perspectives on Climate Change" that she is advising. Bowe commented, "the focus of Dr. Marlon's talk was wonderfully relevant to the students' work." She continued to reflect on the content from the presentation, "Dr. Marlon emphasized how significant a role the media plays in the public's perception, and how the imagery most often associated with climate change distances the viewer, which has the effect of diminishing feelings of urgency surrounding the issue." Jonathan Richter 17' also attended the event, and commented "I thought Dr. Marlon provided unique insight into the diverse viewpoints surrounding Climate Change and how those viewpoints affect policy decisions as well as our everyday lives."

After the presentation, Dr. Marlon opened up the floor for questions, comments and conversation. Community members engaged in a thoughtful dialogue about changing social perceptions. Parent Trish Morgan, commented "Dr. Morgan's reasoned reflection promoted our own critical thinking as a community. There were lots of questions and discussion afterwards - a true sign of a great topic and speaker!"

The King Parents' Association Heath & Sustainable Living Committee seeks to educate students and engage the King community in discovering ways to create a sustainable environment and to raise awareness to effect positive change. Committee chairs Julie Koppenheffer and Kim Cesare, coordinated Tuesday's event. "We were delighted to have Dr. Marlon come and speak to parents, students, faculty and staff on such an important issue," commented Cesare.

Dr. Marlon holds a PhD and MS in Geography from the University of Oregon, and a BS from the University at Albany, State University of New York. She has given guest lectures on this topic to public audiences such as the scientists at NASA Goddard Earth and Space Center, the League of Women Voters, and students at Yale and the University of Maine.