Extension Climate & Extreme Weather Programming: Successes, Challenges & Opportunities
Photo credit: Roslynn McCann, Zion National Park
Faculty eXtension Climate Fellows: Jennison Kipp, University of Florida Sarah Klain, Utah State University
Paul Lachapelle, Montana State University Roslynn McCann, Utah State University
Student eXtension Climate Fellows: Maria Dozier, University of Florida Dakoeta Pinto, Utah State University
Extension Climate & Extreme Weather Programming: Successes, Challenges & Opportunities Copyright © Kipp, J., Klain, S., Lachapelle, P., McCann, R., Dozier, M., and Pinto, D. 2020, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). Published by eXtension Foundation.
Publish Date: 11/15/2020
Citations for this eFieldbook may be made using the following: Kipp, J., Klain, S., Lachapelle, P., McCann, R., Dozier, M., and Pinto, D. (2020). Extension Climate & Extreme Weather Programming: Successes, Challenges & Opportunities (1st ed., 1st rev.). Kansas City: eXtension Foundation. This resource was created for the Cooperative Extension Service and published by the eXtension Foundation. We welcome feedback and suggestions for this resource, which could be included in any subsequent versions.
For more information please contact: eXtension Foundation c/o Bryan Cave LLP One Kansas City Place
1200 Main Street, Suite 3800 Kansas City, MO 64105-2122 https://extension.org/
Table of Contents Attributions
1 1 3 5 5 5 6 9
Extension Climate & Extreme Weather Programming: Successes, Challenges & Opportunities
Climate Change & Extreme Weather in the U.S. Context A Push for Climate & Extreme Weather Programming in Extension
11 11 11 11 12 13 15 20 21 24 27 29 33 38 46 46 46 48 50 51 52 53
Plan of Work
Quantitative Program Inventory
Qualitative Interviews with ‘Early Adopters’ Quantitative Results: Program Inventory Qualitative Results: Interview Themes & Insights
Extension Roles & Leadership Styles
Program Strategy & Structure
Products, Tools, Target Outcomes & Impacts
CES Institutional Challenges Opportunities Moving Forward Conclusions and Recommendations
Appendix A: National Inventory of Extension Climate & Extreme Weather Programs Appendix B: C/EW Program Partners & Funders Identified through Qualitative Interviews
November 17, 2020
Executive Summary The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends rapid implementation of climate adaptation and mitigation programs to reduce the chance of increasingly catastrophic climate change impacts (IPCC, 2018). One outlet for this type of programming is through the United States Cooperative Extension System, which translates scientific information into applied research and educational outreach. Our team conducted a national inventory of Extension programs to better understand the extent to which climate and extreme weather programs are currently being delivered and
Roslynn McCann, Utah State University
to characterize the nature of these programs. Our database includes a range of attributes for each of the programs identified. We also identify if programs include climate mitigation efforts, specifically as categorized according to Project Drawdown’s climate solutions. In-depth interviews with Extension professionals who lead these efforts helped us identify successes, limitations and opportunities associated with these programs. As of November, 2020, we identified 43 Extension programs across 30 states that focus on climate and extreme weather. The majority have primarily educational objectives. Approximately ⅓ of these programs include material on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and supporting carbon sinks. The database highlights programs that have reached diverse audiences in strategic and innovative ways. It also reveals gaps, including the few climate and extreme weather programs that engage youth and/or Native American tribes. Our qualitative research unveiled six major thematic areas, providing insights ranging from leadership styles of those delivering climate and extreme weather programming to institutional challenges faced. The interview results, combined with our database findings, resulted in 21 Conclusions and Recommendations, summarized as: Successes 1. Openness of some Extension professionals and citizens to proactively engage and learn on topics of climate change 2. Some professionals report feeling supported with resources, professional development opportunities and rewards and encouragement from their administrative cohorts 3. Locally-based approaches with citizen buy-in and applied results 4. Diverse and innovative partnerships working together to address common issues
5. Framing climate change in ways that are salient and actionable Challenges 6. Significant gaps in reaching particular audiences including youth, tribal and BIPOC communities 7. Administrative and/or collegial censorship related to climate change programming 8. Criticisms of traditional Extension programming and inability to evolve and innovate 9. Polarizing and political implications of material and concerns for retribution 10. Challenges with communication, specifically terminology choice and message framing 11. Climate change denial among Extension colleagues 12. Little coordination between seemingly disparate programs Opportunities 13. Sense of urgency to increase climate change and extreme weather programming 14. Program evaluation and impacts are largely unknown and could be expanded 15. Great potential to share programming experience, knowledge and resources within and between states, regions, and nationally 16. Potential for examining and promoting successful locally-based approaches 17. Develop various national educational curricula across program areas 18. Provide professional development opportunities focusing on core competencies developed and implemented on a broad scale 19. Implement recommendations of previous Summits and Reports 20. Climate change programming can be more prominently featured in website interfaces 21. Apply Drawdown framework to program design and implementation as well as evaluation and outcome standards.
Background In April, 2020, the eXtension Foundation released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to spearhead a “project dedicated to the compilation of [climate/extreme weather] program data across the Cooperative Extension System (CES) …(to) identify programming that is currently being implemented that aligns with Project Drawdown, other frameworks, and generally accepted conservation practices (and) …develop a repository for this information that can help the CES develop a narrative around the work being performed across the US. The repository will be dynamic, accessible, and easy for specialists, program leaders, agents and educators to update and add to” 1 . This project documents current CES programs and practices in the area of climate and extreme weather, populated into a climate/extreme weather (herein C/EW) repository, and offers insight for Extension educators and upper administration regarding successes, challenges, and gaps in C/EW programming. The information that follows is the result of several months work by the authors of this report. Climate Change & Extreme Weather in the U.S. Context According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the northern hemisphere experienced its hottest summer on record in 2020 (Bateman, 2020). We are already experiencing the consequential impacts of a warming planet, and NOAA clarifies, “these impacts extend well beyond an increase in temperature, affecting ecosystems and communities in the United States (US) and around the world” (Climate Change Impacts | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2019). All sectors of life are impacted including water, human health, ecosystem health, agriculture, wildlife, transportation, air, and energy. As just one example, in the Southwest, models predict that drought and increased competition for water will be a more frequent reality in the coming years (Climate Risks in the Southwest | Fact Sheet, n.d.). Combined with warming temperatures, growers will also face a longer frost-free season, reduced yields of tree fruit and wine grapes, stressed livestock, and increased agricultural water demand. In a 2017 National Young Farmer Survey, 66% of the 3,500 young farmer respondents reported experiencing significant climate change impacts, including: unpredictable weather patterns, more severe storms, increased pest pressure, increased uncertainty in water supply, and/or increased rate of disease (Biden Transition Memo 2020, 2020). Since 1980, the US has experienced 279 C/EW disasters with total costs exceeding $1 billion (Climate Change Impacts | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2019). The combined costs of all these disasters exceeded $1.825 trillion. Between 1980 and 2019, the annual average number of C/EW disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion in the US was 6.6; yet between January 1 and October 7, 2020, there were already 16 C/EW events exceeding $1 billion each. These included one drought event, one wildfire event, three tropical cyclone events, and eleven severe storm events. The following map illustrates these major C/EW events within that 2020 timeframe.
1 eXtension Foundation RFP for Climate/Extreme Weather Fellowship: https://impact.extension.org/2020/04/extension-rfp-for-climate-extreme-weather-fellowship/
Figure 1. Source: NOAA https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/
A Push for Climate & Extreme Weather Programming in Extension In light of growing climate change impacts, the USDA established seven “Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change” in 2013 (Charter of the Executive Committee of the Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change, n.d.). The mission of the USDA Climate Hubs is “to develop and deliver science-based, region-specific information and technologies, with USDA agencies and partners, to agricultural and natural resource managers that enable climate- informed decision-making, and to provide access to assistance to implement those decisions” (Charter of the Executive Committee of the Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change, n.d.). The hubs are a multi-agency effort (Agricultural Research Service, Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Cooperative Extension System) delivering science-based knowledge and practical information to the public. This information is to be disseminated by coordinating with local and regional partners in Federal and State agencies, universities, NGO’s, private companies, and tribes, to help people adapt to C/EW variability. That same year, NOAA’s National Sea Grant Office partnered with NIFA’s Institute of Bioenergy, Climate, and Environment to hold the first Climate Extension Summit (Summit) on March 13-14, 2012 in Silver Spring, MD. The Summit convened a small group of invited experts from both national networks to devise broad strategies and approaches to better engage the nation on issues concerning climate change and climate variability. The summit participants produced a report titled “The Role of Extension in Climate Adaptation in the United States”
https://nifa.usda.gov/sites/default/files/resources/climate_ext_summit.pdf. Major recommendations for the summit included the following: ● Building capacity through additional internal training opportunities for current Extension staff and faculty about climate science basics, written and oral communication about climate issues, risk management strategies, recruiting climate specialists, and training in meeting and small group facilitation and conflict management. ● Embracing and advancing the use of new technologies like social networking, social business tools, and mobile technologies to reach new audiences. ● Exploring opportunities for joint climate Extension initiatives that will enable Land Grant and Sea Grant programs to reach out and establish new partnerships and explore additional funding opportunities. ● Expand partnerships with other climate information networks and professional associations. ● Offer more training in Extension skills and tools to willing climate researchers. In terms of regional efforts, a summit was held at University of California (UC), Davis in February, 2015 with the goal of developing a preliminary plan for Extension’s Southwest regional activities associated with climate change, and with an immediate focus on the USDA’s Climate Hub activities. Representatives from Cooperative Extension in all six Southwest region states, the Southwest Regional Climate Hub (SWRCH), and the California Sub-Hub were in attendance. The format of this summit was a two-day, semi-formal workshop designed to achieve focus and consensus. The result was a consensus for a sea change in Extension’s approach to climate change. The SWRCH and California Sub-Hub representatives endorsed the views that (i) Extension has been late to the table with respect to climate change; (ii) many of Extension’s clientele are significantly underserved when it comes to this topic; and (iii) Extension can fill the critical gap of bringing locally-relevant science into communities in a way that supports important decisions. The participants articulated the following shared vision for the outcome of Extension climate change activities moving forward: “This regional partnership will lead to climate literate communities, with: (i) climate resilient and adaptive agriculture and natural resource management (ii) market adaptations adopted and enabled; and (iii) widespread acceptance and adoption of mitigation practices.” This plan was enthusiastically endorsed by the SWRCH and California Sub-Hub representatives. Emerging from the UC Davis summit has been not only a vision of climate literate communities, but also a strategy for achieving this vision. Broadly, this strategy is based upon integrating the topic throughout existing Extension programs as much as possible. Rather than utilizing climate experts to engage directly with Extension clientele, the notion was to employ those who already have established relationships with their communities — which is existing Extension professionals. In order to realize this approach, the following roadmap was drafted: I. Regional Needs Assessment . Extension’s absence from the issue of climate change has left broad gaps in understanding and capability. Specifically, what are the needs of Extension’s
clientele when it comes to climate-related challenges, and what does Extension need in order to meet these challenges? These gaps suggest a number of necessary first steps, including: assessing climate change literacy and attitudes, both within Cooperative Extension and among Extension’s clientele; assessing current Extension programs and program areas for existing climate-related content; comparing notes within the region to identify areas of complementary endeavors. II. Capacity Building within Cooperative Extension . Extension professionals cannot pass along knowledge and tools to their clientele which they themselves do not possess. Implicit in a comprehensive approach to climate change within Extension is the need to establish (i) a substantial level of climate literacy, including the integrated nature of climate issues affecting the nexus of food, water, and energy, among Extension faculty and agents; and (ii) a collection of tools and resources upon which they can draw. Development of this base of knowledge and resources should occur in several stages: generalized training; specialized training; and development of resources to accomplish both. III. Interstate Extension collaboration and partnership development . There understandably exists variation among the needs of Extension’s clientele. Utah’s agricultural community differs greatly from California’s. But there also exists considerable overlap. Consequently, where it makes sense to share information and resources collaboratively, effort should be made to do so. One example of resources that will likely be highly transferable are basic Extension training tools, such as videos and websites. These could be developed collaboratively and widely shared. IV. Program content identification, development, delivery and assessment . As Extension moves from developing capacity within its own ranks, to delivering content to clientele, there will be a need to identify information and tools useful to different clientele; integrate these into existing programs; potentially develop new programs; deliver this content; and dynamically assess the efforts. Key in this endeavor will be collaboration among Extension specialists, faculty and agents, climate change experts familiar with the work that’s already been done, and leading organizations providing solutions using an integrated lens. In addition to the consensus reached at the UC Davis 2015 summit, the need to educate and include those within Extension was also highlighted in a Journal of Extension article, where the researchers found that despite the overwhelming scientific evidence of anthropogenic induced climate change, Extension is not adequately educating and preparing its clientele about the issue (Morris et al., 2014). In fact, in a study with 2,758 Extension professionals in the Southeast Region, less than 50% stated they either sometimes or often use the terminology “climate change” in any of their outreach, and under 35% in all Southeast states were participating in any climate change continuing education (Wojcik et al., 2014). The need to increase Extension C/EW programming combined with the urgency of climate change resulted in the 2019 development of the national administrative-level Climate Coalition and the Extension specialist and agent-led National Extension Climate Initiative (NECI). In just over a year since
its inception, NECI has reached 200 members. Both the Climate Coalition and NECI assisted with our team’s data collection and outreach efforts.
Photo by John Fowler on Unsplash.
Project Drawdown We designed our research to connect to Project Drawdown’s https://drawdown.psu.edu/ list of climate solutions. Project Drawdown, a non-profit organization with academic and industry partners, has identified climate solutions that, if broadly implemented, would make global greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere decline. This organization published the bestselling book Drawdown in 2017, which ranked the top 100 climate solutions. In October 2019, the first International Drawdown Conference was convened at Penn State University with the theme of “Research to Action: The Science of Drawdown.” This conference connected researchers with public and private sector professionals capable of implementing pathways to drawing down GHGs. We see opportunities for Extension programming to play a more prominent role in applying the solutions that Project Drawdown identified.
Figure 2. Project Drawdown’s framework of climate solutions. We categorized Extension’s climate and extreme weather programs according to these types of solutions. *Project Drawdown’s Health & Education sub-category refers to family planning as well as educating women and girls, topics which are outside the scope of our climate and extreme weather Extension programming inventory.
Project Drawdown documents three overarching categories of climate solutions that are intended to draw down GHGs in ways that are as safe, fast, and equitable as possible (Wilkinson, 2020). This framework of solutions to global warming includes 1) reduce sources, which refers to practices and technologies that bring GHG emissions to zero; 2) support sinks, which means enhancing nature’s carbon cycle; and 3) Improve society, which means promoting equality, generally through policies and practices that promote health and education. We applied these high-level categories to Extension programming and solution sub-categories as depicted in Figure 2. We categorized Extension programs with Project Drawdown’s framework to quantify how many existing programs focus on diverse types of climate solutions.
Research Objectives The objectives guiding this work were described in the eXtension Foundation’s Request for Proposals 2 and include: ● Identify gaps in C/EW programming ● Identify areas of greatest impact (or identify trends) ● Help eXtension identify measurements of acceleration ● Focus CES interests on identified C/EW actions (solutions) ● Help eXtension tell their story around C/EW action (as they seek funding and partners based on their current and future capacity) ● Help identify where CES is accelerating its impact the most ● Empower CES Educators to align with these actions and their strengths ● Allow for some longitudinal analysis ● Create some continuity in CES programming across the country Plan of Work From its inception, our team met for at least one hour, once a week to provide updates, clarify as needed, and to stay focused on major tasks. Upon review of Project Drawdown’s climate solutions, we drafted our database columns with input from our entire team. As a baseline for adding C/EW programs to our database, our student eXtension fellows reviewed all programs listed in the National Sustainability-Focused Extension Programs database https://extension.usu.edu/sustainability/programs/national-sustainability as well as the National Extension Climate Initiative's (NECI) https://nationalextensionclimateinitiative.net/ member programs. Once those programs had been exhausted and added, we sent out a national call through NECI, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Climate Hubs, the National Network for Sustainable Living Education, and all Extension directors involved in the Extension Climate Coalition. Any programs with missing information were contacted for clarification. We then gathered data on successes, challenges, and opportunities experienced by those leading C/EW programming in Extension through a nationwide in-depth qualitative research study. Those findings added to the richness of data collected through the database. The rest of this report shares our research methods, database results, and major findings from our in-depth interviews. Methods We used both quantitative and qualitative survey methods. For the quantitative segment of the research, we created a preliminary database with 33 fields to begin the inventory of C/EW programs
2 eXtension Foundation RFP for Climate/Extreme Weather Fellowship: https://impact.extension.org/2020/04/extension-rfp-for-climate-extreme-weather-fellowship/
across CES (See Appendix A). We defined a C/EW program, which is the unit of analysis for this research, based on text from the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture NIFA web site (NIFA, n.d.) with the following four characteristics: 1. A current evidence-based science effort for practical application. 2. Open and accessible to the public and connects people to information and assistance. 3. Sustained initiative to educate using multiple modes of delivery. 4. Focuses specifically on climate and/or extreme weather as the primary learning outcome. Exclusion criteria: A program that focused on drought or flood issues that does not mention C/EW would not be included in the final results. Likewise, if an Extension professional produced only one webinar or one factsheet or met internally with colleagues and the materials were not accessible to the public, we determined those to not meet our criteria and did not include the programs in our final inventory.
Extreme weather, such as prolonged drought, has contributed to increasing the frequency and severity of forest fires. Photo by Michael Chacon on Unsplash.
Quantitative Program Inventory The 33 fields in our database included items such as: Name of Program, University, Spatial Scale of Program, Program Description and Goals, web link, Key Personnel, Partners and Funding Agencies, Evaluative Data, Keywords/Tags (which are specific descriptors or keywords associated with program), Program Format Criteria (which included for example whether it was an active program, such as workshops/trainings or a passive program, such as a website), and the Type of Information Offered (i.e. fact sheets, bulletin, listserv). We established a preliminary database using an internet search and search terms that included the name of the Extension-related university (1862, 1890, 1994 and Sea Grants were all included) and the words ‘climate’ and / or ‘extreme weather.’
Sustainable You! 4-H Camp Participants, Park City UT. Photo credit: Roslynn McCann. The Excel® database was posted on-line via a public Google® Docs page and we sent the link to multiple sources to review, edit, ground-truth, and add to the preliminary data we had collected. Among the many networks we sent the link included Extension Directors via eXtension, the new National Extension Climate Initiative (NECI) 3 member map and listserv that contains over 200 subscribers, and the listservs and networks that the authors maintain and subscribe to. We also personally contacted individuals we knew had C/EW programs to further ground-truth the data. The goal was to actively promote input on the data and create the most comprehensive dataset on the topics to date. Qualitative Interviews with ‘Early Adopters’ Our team conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with 16 purposefully selected Extension professionals who had direct experience and/or knowledge of C/EW programming. The study design, semi-structured interview guide, informed consent, and participant contacts were all vetted by the study’s authors and were approved by the Utah State University Institutional Review Board (IRB). Study participants were intentionally chosen to meet the following criteria: 1) direct experience and/or knowledge of C/EW programming, 2) early adopters in developing and offering C/EW Extension programming, and 3) has or previously had a percentage of their role statement committed to Extension outreach. An initial list of respondents were identified via the NECI listserv as well as requests from our networks. Additional participants were included through snowball sampling until a point of saturation - 16 participants representing 11 states and LGUs from a range of geographic areas across the U.S. - had been reached. The final sample of C/EW ‘Early Adopter’ interviewees has over 210 years of collective professional experience working with Extension (average of 13 years). Interviews were scheduled and conducted via the Zoom® software platform with a lead interviewer and note taker. Respondents were assured that all identifying information would be removed and the data would be anonymous and confidential. Interview questions involved items on experience with C/EW programming, successes and opportunities, challenges, evaluation, and partnerships. The structured but
3 National Extension Climate Initiative: https://nationalextensionclimateinitiative.net/
open format allowed respondents to detail any aspects of their teaching, research, outreach and administrative experiences. The interviews were recorded and voice was automatically converted to text using the Otter® software that is integrated with Zoom®. The transcripts were corrected for grammar and identifying information was removed. Transcript analysis involved a thorough reading and understanding of the text and identification of prominent themes and sub-themes using NVivo® software. The themes were organized into a final matrix showing patterns of homogeneity and idiosyncrasies. Results are organized into two sections that follow, conforming to our methods of quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis. The conclusions section synthesizes and summarizes key findings and considerations to guide next steps. Finally, Appendices A & B link to the full climate and extreme weather program database and provide information supplemental to the qualitative interviews and analysis.
Photo by Irina Iriser from Pexels.
Quantitative Results: Program Inventory We found 43 C/EW programs that fit our criteria. Figure 3 displays the spatial distribution of the C/EW programs; they exist in 30 states (note the regional and national programs are not represented on the maps and also several universities, for example Purdue and the University of Florida are engaged in several distinct programs). We also found an additional approximately 160 programs that also either mention C/EW or could infer a connection based on Project Drawdown’s criteria. For example, a winter weather program that provides resources for forecasting or emergency preparedness could infer a connection to climate and/or extreme weather without explicitly stating so, but we felt these were subjective to try to define and therefore warrant further study and specific definition of measurable metrics and inclusion criteria.
Figure 3. Map showing spatial distribution of C/EW programs and example of related program information. Within the 43 programs, we found that there are 29 programs that focus solely on climate, 4 programs that focus solely on extreme weather, and 10 programs that focus on both. Regarding the spatial scale of the program, we found 2 that are offered at the city/county level, 21 at the state, 14 that are regional, and 5 that are national in scale. Regarding the program area, the majority at 24 we describe as cross-programs spanning several programs or disciplines; next we determined 10 to be associated with agriculture, 5 with natural resources and/or forestry, and 4 with 4-H/youth. Table 1 and Figures 4 and 5 below present these results.
Total Number of States
Programs focusing on Climate (C)
Programs focusing on Extreme Weather (EW)
Programs focusing on CC and EW
Table 1. Total number of programs by climate, extreme weather and both.
Figure 4. Spatial scale of program delivery.
Figure 5. Climate and Extreme weather Extension Program Areas.
As we inventoried Extension programs focused on climate change and extreme weather, we categorized them according to Project Drawdown’s overarching types of climate solutions, i.e., supporting sinks and reducing sources. We also tracked which programs fit within the sub-categories of climate solutions that Project Drawdown identified, including electricity, food, agriculture and land use, industry, transportation, buildings, land sinks, ocean sinks, and engineered sinks. As shown in Figure 6, a total of nine (21%) of these Extension programs include reducing sources of GHG emissions, ten (23%) aim to reduce sources and support carbon sinks. Over half, 24 programs (56%), do not include explicit efforts to reduce sources of emissions or enhance sinks; these educational efforts do not focus on reducing the drivers of climate change.
Figure 6. Climate and Extreme Weather Extension Programs according to Project Drawdown Categories of Climate Solutions.
Food, agriculture and land use was the most common Drawdown sub-category in climate and extreme weather programming as shown in Figure 7. A total of three programs (7%) also included ways to reduce emissions via electricity and energy efficiency in buildings and an additional three programs included programs related to non-fossil fuel transportation. The majority of programs (58%) did not explicitly address Drawdown subcategories, instead providing information on extreme weather or climate adaptation.
Figure 7. Climate and Extreme Weather Extension Programs according to Project Drawdown Sub-Categories of Climate Solutions. As shown in Figure 8, the Extension programs that we reviewed primarily focused on climate adaptation — how to reduce the negative effects of climate change and benefit from opportunities that may arise. Over half of the programs, 58%, focused on climate adaptation (25 programs). Climate mitigation, which entails drawing down emissions and/or enhancing carbon sinks, was a part of 37% of the programs in our analysis (16 programs). A total of 7% (3 programs) focused solely on mitigation and 5% (2 programs) provided information on extreme weather, but did not provide information directly related to climate adaptation or mitigation.
Figure 8. Extension Program by Type of Climate Action.
Land sinks and food, agriculture and land use were the primary Project Drawdown climate mitigation categories in the Extension programs that focused on climate and extreme weather. Photo by Tom Fisk from Pexels.
Qualitative Results: Interview Themes & Insights This section summarizes common themes that emerged from the interview transcript synthesis and analysis. We present the major themes followed by interview excerpts that exemplify and provide evidence supporting each theme or topical area. While interview themes are organized by affinity, the degree to which respondents’ perspectives converge or diverge varies across thematic areas (whereby ‘R’ and the number corresponds to our respondent with n=16). Where apparent and notable from the range of insights shared within major themes, we speak to this degree of variability (divergence) or consensus (convergence). Collectively, the qualitative interviews revealed a group of Extension C/EW program innovators and early adopters with a remarkably diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and wisdom to share. Interview findings speak to and are organized within six overarching thematic areas: 1. Extension Roles & Leadership Styles : What are common characteristics and leadership traits of early adopters who have demonstrated success with C/EW Extension programming? 2. Program Strategy & Structure : What are the program development and delivery attributes that define ‘successful’ C/EW programs? 3. Products, Tools, Target Outcomes & Impacts : What services are provided and how/in what ways are they most salient and valuable for Extension clientele? 4. External Constraints : What factors and circumstances outside of Extension’s direct influence hinder or limit the reach and effectiveness of our C/EW initiatives? 5. CES Institutional Challenges : Reflecting on our internal strengths and weaknesses, where and how have Extension institutional structures and incentives challenged early adopters and innovators with respect to the scope and scale of their C/EW programming? 6. Opportunities Moving Forward : What programmatic, technical, and competency gaps are evident among the current suite of C/EW Extension programs offered, and what do these suggest in terms of continued CES leadership and opportunities to leverage C/EW resources moving forward?
“The Coming Storm” Photo by NOAA at Unsplash.
Extension Roles & Leadership Styles Authentic Community Engagement & Participatory Processes
Extension C/EW early adopters strive to: ‘meet people where they are at’, engage audiences and clientele in authentic and mutually beneficial ways, and create safe and productive spaces for facilitating participatory decision making. Employing these leadership traits and laying this foundation during the earliest phases of work proves critical for long-term programmatic success, especially given the widespread politicization of climate science and issues that respondents have encountered (described later in this section). ● “ Extension’s history really is that it's a bit slower moving and a little more grounded and very relational . And I think that that's typically what I've seen, it's worked for me and it's worked for other people that I've seen in Extension here . That's successful. I think it's harder when you come out of the gate hard with an idea that you think everybody needs to know about and they're not ready for it or they're not interested in it either.” (R04) ● “We have people with the city who are very involved in developing this [Extension program] for them. So, it's great to have them actually collaborating with us in terms of what they want for their residents … to get stakeholder involvement and then to be able to get some of [them] collaborating and working with us on the project ... being able to work with large groups of people who have similar goals can be quite powerful. ” (R05) ● “One of the unmet needs is how can you meet people where they are, where their experience is, and help them work through this , understand it, and develop some techniques, develop some programs that can help them deal with that, mitigate those things in the future. We do ...visioning sessions throughout the community and we've done this in cities and villages and townships, and we try to invite as many different, diverse people in, or to provide input, as we possibly can .” (R15)
● “ We co-developed with land
managers and ranchers rain gauge designs that would work specifically for them. And then we built online tools to help them collect and analyze the data. ” (R04) ● “ People thought it was like rocket science, even though it was not. It was such obvious participatory facilitation, and it really affected people because they had real conversations about what mattered ... Most people love to talk
Photo by Andrew Ly on Unsplash.
about the past and they can remember everything. They can remember the big flood of this year and the drought of that year, and they also brought up a lot of the local knowledge that they have.” (R13) ”Soft” Skills & Interpersonal Competencies Interview respondents emphasized that so-called “soft” skills and interpersonal competencies are fundamental elements for effective and sustained Extension C/EW program delivery. They attributed their successes broadly to honest efforts to relate to their collaborators and clientele, listen actively and empathically to a diversity of stakeholders in their work, foster and maintain civil and mutually respectful dialogue in their interactions, and stay committed to finding areas of common ground fertile for progress. ● “For me success is when we value everyone at the table for what they bring and even if they don't bring anything, if they just bring questions. Or if they just bring even the ‘blocker’, who is blocking everything …he has a role in the group to help us learn.” (R13) ● “I had some programmatic stuff that I could help with as I was getting off the ground. I took this as the tasks of doing a lot of meetings, driving around, and a lot of listening the first couple of years to try to sort out what I was hearing on the ground. As far as working with my other Extension colleagues, the agents in the counties, and working with the county Directors on what they might be interested in… My personality is I want to listen and then respond and so that ended up being the way the program developed. I tried to be responsive to what I heard and that largely was successful. ” (R04) ● “ We work with the leadership in the community as well as the residents to understand that what they're doing today is going to affect their grandchildren and their great grandchildren and we get them to start focusing on intergenerational equity ...you know, what are you doing today? And think about what impact you're going to have on the future. So, a lot of what we do is really facilitation, raising the level of awareness. ” (R15)
● “ I'll tell you how I defuse arguments ...when people come off as combative. Basically, I acknowledge their concern. I say ‘oh, I can tell from the way that you're talking about this that you're really passionate about it because, you know, I think we can all agree there's a lot at stake. And so for now, why don't we agree to disagree?’ And I'll go on with my talk, and we can have an offline conversation, and that actually seems to work because I'm acknowledging that they’re concerned about it ...Everybody wants to make sure that we're getting it right. ” (R06) Transdisciplinary & “Nexus” Programming Crossing boundaries, working at the nexus of different topical and disciplinary issues, and deliberately structuring programs to identify areas of common ground among clientele who may hold competing interests were identified by early adopters as key to effective C/EW programming. ● “ The ways we can adapt are as broad
as the field of agriculture , from livestock animal scientists to agronomists to plant scientists and everything in between. So we just need all these people working in their particular field on resilient solutions ...it can't be up to me as a climate change generalist.” (R09) ● “There's also an opportunity with these so-called “nexus” issues, like food-energy, water security-climate, water-land use, or climate and cascading hazards like drought, forest fires and then floods that follow forest fires that send debris flows cascading into
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communities. I think there are big opportunities to work at those intersections and it can be very fruitful because you could work with a lot of other extension colleagues and other state and federal agency colleagues on those kinds of issues.” (R06) ● “We visited three communities in rural
[STATE] to talk about climate and energy and agricultural water use . We kind of mushed those three topics together. They are always of interest to folks in [our] state ...so the energy issues are interesting, the water is scarce, so that's always interesting, and the climate part kind of brought all the pieces together .” (R06)
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Program Strategy & Structure This theme addresses the ‘how’ of Extension programming; what approaches and strategies are early adopters of C/EW programs using to successfully develop and deliver their programs? Collaboration & Partnerships Success rests upon the relationship-building between Extension and the communities and clientele for whom programs and products are developed and delivered. Within and outside of Extension, collaboration and partnerships were consistently named as keys of C/EW program success. ● “ Listening and collaboration are Extension’s history…” (R04) ● “One of the things that made [the project] so effective was having that collaboration and everyone had different strengths. We had a really wide range of backgrounds and skill sets and I think that really helped.” (R02) ● “What we found successful is if you get different voices in the community, as many voices as you possibly can to provide that input.” (R15) ● “ Collaborative processes ...are the most successful thing , if you're working together towards a common goal. That’s really…the most rewarding work and it also seems to me to be the most effective. It’s where you have the greatest impact. ” (R06) ● “So having solid partnerships and that we or I have buy-in from the very beginning on those efforts ...and building trust as well and respect from my colleagues, whether it's here in (STATE) or the other states that I work in ...because weather is easy to talk about and extreme events are easy to talk about. Climate can be a little bit more tough to talk about and [when] climate change comes in, the conversation becomes even more challenging at times. So the more trust, respect that I have and building those partnerships and ensuring that people are part of that process in the development of it from the beginning ...and that buy in, it's critical .” (R10) ● “I did this work on extreme heat and public health, and that was an opportunity to build a network of collaborators who have continued to work even after the funded programming ended. They've continued to work to implement programs and also to collaborate on further research proposals. So developing that network of collaborators that included university researchers and city staff members and public health professionals ...that's an example of a process that was very rewarding .” (R06) ● One respondent who spoke to its value and strength also noted an important tradeoff of collaboration, what they termed the “polygamist challenge, and that is with each collaboration, it’s like a marriage. You’re developing a relationship. So now you’ve got multiple marriages and how do you keep those marriages up over time? How do you maintain continuity without narrowing your focus a whole lot? And I’ve never been able to figure that one out.” [R06]
Community Partner Leadership & Capacity Extension programs hinge not only on internal capacity and resources, but of equal importance, their effectiveness and reach hinges on the capacity of community partners and collaborators. Several respondents emphasized this point and recognized that while they can play a role in facilitating and fostering community
capacity through their programs, they also are dependent on external community capacity to support their Extension programs. Early adopters and leaders of C/EW programs see opportunity in catalyzing and fueling these positive feedback loops with community partners. ● “I guess what makes them (C/EW programs) successful is having those community leaders, having enough community capacity, enough of a sense of urgency or importance for the community to take something on. All of those stars aligning.” (R01) ● “Our county did not at the time have a sustainability person or department and no one was really in charge of sustainability initiatives. So that was an opportunity [for me] to grow into some programming that the community felt was really important. ” (R14) ● Speaking to the point that cities across their state have interest in partnering with Extension on climate programs but typically lack the funding to commit to those partnerships, one respondent stated that “County Extension educators are doing a great job …support going to some municipalities could be done statewide, it could be done across the country. I think that Extension really is trusted and can play a role in education and facilitation and helping communities with local climate projects. ” (R11) Nimble & Responsive to Clientele Needs Nearly all respondents spoke to their C/EW Extension programs being driven by Photo by Binyamin Mellish from Pexels.
and responsive to clientele needs, interests, and demands. Rather than working to fit their programs neatly into expectations or frameworks of their home Extension or LGU institutions, C/EW program early adopters emphasized that
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they start with personal engagement, listening, and assessing needs to ensure that their work is most relevant and useful for the communities they serve. ● “Every year is different. And that’s one of the things that I really like about Extension, that as new needs and issues arise, we’re trying our best to meet those and develop programs on those [needs and issues]. There is definitely always more that we could do and sometimes our capacity is limited to do that based on how we’re funded. But I think that is one of the great things about Extension and I know a lot more local counties have started working on climate change and so I think that’s really exciting.” (R02) ● “We have a group of farmers who are super progressive, and a lot who are really interested in just the science of climate change and who want to talk about what they can do on their farms .” (R09) ● One interviewee shared that if given the opportunity and the funding, “I would develop what I would term a ‘climate shop’, which would be not unlike a state climate office, but maybe more focused on kind of rapid turnaround, quick, data-driven projects that would help rural communities in the sort of the Extension aspects of climate adaptation . These would have to be collaborative, so there would be things that could be very ag focused and maybe there's some need for climate information for longer term planning of where orchards and vineyards go using climate projections. Maybe it's better access to weather information for managing freeze events and they need help with that.” (R04) Strategic Messaging & Issue Framing Communication strategy, message framing, and terminology choice matter a great deal to program relevance, effectiveness, and long-term success. C/EW early adopters shared that this could be as simple as framing climate issues in terms of tangible outcomes and impacts clientele are experiencing or avoiding certain “trigger” terminology when engaging communities or audiences for whom the term ‘climate change’ might signal government intervention or regulations. A number of respondents stated that to reach more conservative and/or rural audiences, their climate programs often need to be couched within the context of extreme weather, drought preparedness, flood management or recovery, adaptation, personal health and safety, and/or economic resilience. ● “ I have had good success with—instead of saying ‘climate change’—saying ‘a changing climate.’ It’s just such a small thing, but I think that that has been well received.” (R09) ● “You know, it used to be ‘climate change’ and even ‘climate resiliency’ and then ‘climate variability’, and when people see that, it just seems like it turns them off. So you just have to find ways to get around that terminology. ‘Extreme weather’ seems to work very well. ” (R08) ● “One-on-one on a farm or with a small group of farmers, we don’t start the conversation with that broad kind of topic of climate change. We start to talk about, for example, soil management practices …‘here's what it can do for yield improvement’, and then we come in and say, ‘by the way, this has tremendous benefits in terms of resilience.’ I think this really keeps
people's ears open, those who might not have been listening otherwise, and we broaden our audience and improve the reception of our message. ” (R09) ● “When I'm with a new group, I try to play a game to lighten the mood a little bit to make the point that climate is not a four-letter word. ” (R10) ● “ In the heart of coal country I get great evaluations , and it's because I'm teaching them science- based material and also because I do not come across to them as a person who has an axe to grind , something that I want to push.” (R16)
● “ We don’t specifically address that [climate change]. What we do address is environmental sustainability , which usually raises people’s level of awareness and causes them to think about what kind of world we’re leaving for future generations.” (R15) Products, Tools, Target Outcomes & Impacts Respondents discussed the types of services and products being provided through their C/EW programs and interviews revealed specific characteristics of these services that make them most effective in meeting clientele needs and generating meaningful outcomes and impacts. Locally Relevant, Timely & Tailored; Practical & Actionable Information & Tools Common attributes of successful C/EW programs are that the information itself and the delivery modes are tailored to
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local communities’ specific situations, cultures, socio- economic factors, and environmental conditions.
Successful programs talk about and address in very practical terms the impacts, outcomes, and strategies for action to adapt or mitigate climate change, rather than focusing on the basic science and causes or anthropogenic drivers of climate change.
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