Climate variability continues to be a defining factor in agriculture and water quality in the North Central Region. Extreme weather events are occurring at increased frequencies and can dry out farm fields, flood city streets, and damage key infrastructure.
Extension professionals play an important role educating communities, farmers, and municipalities on the impacts of climate change and what increased climate variability means for them. Extension and other natural resource managers also serve as a critical link between communities and the climate information they need to implement climate-smart practices.
That being said, many extension professionals do not feel adequately prepared to answer questions on climate changes and climate variability. In a survey of North Central agriculture and natural resources county extension professionals conducted in 2015, 54% had low capacity and an additional 38% had moderate capacity to adequately answer constituent’s questions about climate change (Tomlinson et al., 2015).
“Extension professionals have a large role to play in providing communities and producers climate information. As extension professionals our job is to outline climate adaptation strategies, provide data to drive changes in practices, and give advice to best run their farm or business and sustain their community in times of climatic change,” said Hans Schmitz, Extension Educator at Purdue University and member of the Network’s climate team.
Hans is part of the leadership team planning a three-day virtual climate conference for extension educators, natural resource managers, state and county agency staff and municipality professionals June 8-10th. The conference will focus on advanced climate change topics and will build on the team’s past workshops and ongoing webinar series.
“This three-day event is a great opportunity for extension professionals to better understand climate variability, its vast impacts, and how to best provide advice to stakeholders,” notes Schmitz.
The climate conference, titled North Central Climate 201, will help address extension professionals’ concerns, expand their knowledge base, and help them better prepare to answer and advise clients by providing educators education and skills to advise communities and agricultural stakeholders on climate and coping and planning for climate variability in the future.
The event will cover topics including climate modeling and the recently released NOAA new climate “normals”, climate and communities and climate justice and agriculture and natural resources and climate.
The conference will also feature a keynote presentation from Dr. J Marshall Shepherd, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program at the University of Georgia. Dr. Shepherd is a leading international expert in weather and climate and the author of “The Race Awakening of 2020: A 6-Step Guide for Moving Forward”. His presentation will take place on the morning of Wednesday, June 9th and will discuss climate justice.
Attendees can attend the full conference or pick and choose the topics that most interest them. The event is from 9AM – 12PM CT June 8-10th. More information and an agenda can be found on northcentralclimate.org.