Michel Boudrias, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Marine Science and Environmental Studies, is the principal investigator for the San Diego Regional Climate Education Partnership (SDRCEP). Boudrias is working with a cross-disciplinary team comprised of representatives from USD, Energy Policy Initiatives Center (EPIC), California State University San Marcos, The San Diego Foundation, The Steve Alexander Group and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Last year, the partnership earned a $1.25 million federal grant to research local perspectives on climate change. They are seeking additional funding from the NSF to implement their top-down strategy for regional climate education. Their hope is to educate a diverse set of social, political and religious leaders, who can spread environmental awareness to the San Diego communities they know best.
In the initial phase of their project, the SDRCEP discovered that "San Diegans throughout the County overwhelmingly have basic knowledge of the science of climate change, believe that climate change is happening, and that it is an important issue that impacts the region’s clean air and water, coastal areas and the region’s quality of life." For the second phase of the project, Boudrias and his team will seek to improve the public’s general knowledge. He said San Diegans need updated information about climate change and information that is easier to understand—that’s where community leaders come in.
"A part of the reason why we wanted to work with the key influential community leaders, the business leaders, the thought leaders really of San Diego, is to have a situation where they could be a portal to their own community," Boudrias said. "Maybe they will be the messenger because their community will respond to them better. Maybe they will be the ones who will work with us to help develop the message that’s more appropriate for the business community, for example, for elected officials."
According to Boudrias, surveys indicate that nearly 90 percent of San Diego leaders identify themselves as concerned about climate change. However, 90 percent believe that other local leaders are unconcerned. The project aims to educate these influential people with a focus on highly relevant, San Diego-specific climate issues: droughts, wildfires, sea level rise and heat waves.
"The idea is that this will be a ripple effect, that they will therefore be able to approach their communities and then a larger group of people will therefore be educated and will learn more about the facts and be able to make smart decisions."
Boudrias provided quoted statements in an interview with KPBS.