This White Paper is a call to action for astronomers to respond to climate change with a large structural transition within our profession. Many astronomers are deeply concerned about climate change and act upon it in their personal and professional lives, and many organizations within astronomy have incorporated incremental changes. We need a collective impact model to better network and grow our efforts so that we can achieve results that are on the scale appropriate to address climate change at the necessary level indicated by scientific research; e.g., becoming carbon neutral by 2050. We need to implement strategies within two primary drivers of our field: (1) Education and Outreach, and (2) Research Practices and Infrastructure. (1) In the classroom and through public talks, astronomers reach a large audience. Astronomy is closely connected to the science of climate change, and it is arguably the most important topic we include in our curriculum. Due to misinformation and disinformation, climate change communication is different than for other areas of science. We therefore need to expand our communication and implement effective strategies, for which there is now a considerable body of research. (2) On a per-person basis astronomers have an outsized carbon impact. There are numerous ways we can reduce our footprint; e.g., in the design and operation of telescope facilities and in the optimization and reduction of travel. Fortunately, many of these solutions are win-win scenarios, e.g., increasing the online presence of conferences will reduce the carbon footprint while increasing participation, especially for astronomers working with fewer financial resources. Astronomers have an obligation to act on climate change in every way possible, and we need to do it now. In this White Paper, we outline a plan for collective impact using a Networked Improvement Community (NIC) approach.
© the authors
Williamson, Kathryn; Rector, Travis A.; and Lowenthal, James D., "Embedding Climate Change Engagement in Astronomy Education and Research" (2019). Astronomy: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.