Climate change is a global problem and represents one of the greatest challenges for the global community in the 21st century. But in Germany, too, the regional effects of climate change can already be clearly seen. Accordingly, for many people climate change is relevant in terms of protecting their future livelihood, either from a professional or private standpoint. In more and more sectors (e.g. agriculture and forestry, administration, healthcare, construction and housing, energy and water management, and education), dependable information and expertise on climate change and its repercussions are increasingly becoming indispensable to people’s ability to actively shape their own future.
The dialogue between the scientific community and society, and the accompanying establishment of a knowledge society, represent a vital basis for achieving these goals. Further, bringing together climate research, regional actors and civil society is an important part of promoting a societal transformation in the context of addressing the global challenge of climate change. Here the goal is to convey ‘global climate change’, which can vary considerably from region to region, in such a way as to demonstrate the need to take action, to increase citizens’ individual motivation, and to activate their personal engagement and grasp of the need for climate protection.
In many communities and municipalities, finding societal responses to climate change, like climate protection, climate adaptation and the energy transition still isn’t pursued with the necessary earnestness. Many actors, including decision-makers, often lack a basic grasp of the interconnections between climate change, the likely climate impacts, and climate protection, as well as the knowledge needed to become active in the sense of a broad-scale shared responsibility.
Since a fundamental transformation toward a climate-compatible society can only be ensured by a broad consensus among the populace, actively involving actors from civil society in the transformation process is an important consideration. One way of doing so is to provide innovative educational opportunities in keeping with the concept of ’education for participation’ (transformation education). With the help of the educational products developed in dialogue in the course of the project, various actors – e.g. those involved in municipal climate protection, affected occupational groups, and interested members of the general public are given the opportunity to catch up on the latest developments in global and regional climate change and the consequences for politics and society, to find information on climate adaptation and climate protection measures in their specific context, and to network with others.
In this regard, the project consolidates the entire knowledge chain, from the global to the regional level, and employs innovative learning formats that combine conventional classroom teaching with digital elements to create an interactive course format (’blended learning’) in which e.g. Germany’s leading climate researchers can share their expertise, lending classroom teaching a connection to the participants’ everyday lives. As a result, they learn to view region-specific challenges within a much broader context; further, they gain the knowledge and decision-making skills needed to properly gauge the changes in their region, and to work toward achieving a climate-compatible society. Through the educational project, this pioneering format will be used in adult education courses taught at community colleges across Germany, remedying a substantial gap in previous educational approaches.
The course curriculum developed in the project is to be established in three key regions:
Coastal areas, which are affected by region-specific issues including coastal and flood protection,
Central Germany, which is affected by region-specific issues including periodic droughts, flooding and extreme weather events, and
Southern Germany, which is affected by region-specific issues including heat and extreme weather events, and is home to the Alpine Foreland.
With its new educational products, the project is intended to support participants in their role as important multipliers in connection with municipal climate protection and the transformation of our society, to help them network with one another, and by doing so to make a meaningful contribution to implementing the Paris Agreement on climate protection in the Federal Republic of Germany. In addition, it will
- place selected regional aspects of global climate change in the focus of regional educational curricula;
- lastingly establish the importance of climate change, climate protection and climate adaptation among multipliers;
- bring together various actors, levels of knowledge and types of expertise;
- consolidate the entire knowledge chain on climate change, from the global to the local level;
- provide a lasting basis for knowledge transfer adapted to participants’ specific needs;
- and make a substantial contribution to strengthening their ability to actively participate with regard to key questions on climate protection and climate adaptation.
The region-specific community college courses developed in the framework of this project address a broad range of actors:
Decision-makers – e.g. municipal / city / district council members working on a voluntary basis, who bear a unique responsibility in connection with shaping their cities and communities in a climate-friendly manner. The newly developed courses offer a number of resources to help them make better decisions on difficult climate adaptation questions.
Shapers – e.g. city planners, architects, energy consultants, heating engineers, craftspeople, and green-area planners – whose professions could help to shape a climate-neutral future for our cities and communities.
Victims – e.g. those working in the water and energy management sectors, farmers and foresters, and those working in the healthcare sector, insurance agents etc.). More and more professions are already affected by the impacts of climate change. In the course, members of this group can learn to better assess risks, helping them make more informed, future-ready (investment) decisions.
Activists – e.g. members of climate protection clubs, environmental protection associations, those engaged in local heritage preservation, directors of citizens’ energy cooperatives, and those working in civil defence and emergency management on a voluntary basis.
Interested citizens with a diverse range of backgrounds.
In the course of the project, regionally adapted course modules will be prepared for three key regions in Germany, and will be offered (on the basis of collaboration with regional partners) at community colleges on six scheduled dates. In the modules, the essentials of the global and above all the regional manifestations of climate change and its impacts will be conveyed in the form of a dialogue. Moreover, the course will present potential regional climate adaptation measures that are directly relevant for the participants. Lastly, concrete suggestions on how they can become actively involved in climate protection, and how they can network with one another, will be provided and discussed.
Employing a ’blended learning’ format, the course modules will include a number of interactive elements, e.g. quizzes; supplemental videos with input from Germany’s leading climate researchers and supplied by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the German Climate Consortium (DKK); and documentary films on regional climate change, provided by the REKLIM research network. The presentations, live chats and classroom work with researchers from the Helmholtz Climate Initiative REKLIM and other regional climate researchers, who will transfer the global perspective to the regional level, represent a further important aspect.
Photo: fesa e.V./ifpro Group photo: Badische Zeitung