Penn State Climate Consortium (in development)

Solving climate change. Together.

The climate crisis is here and will challenge societies in unprecedented ways. Penn State, as Pennsylvania’s land-grant university, has a distinctive foundation in climate research to support transdisciplinary approaches for climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience.

Ensuring the positive impact of this research on local communities and across our global network requires us to strengthen and leverage our excellence in climate change research, empower our students, faculty, and partners to build adaptive capacity, and implement transformative solutions across all sectors of society.

The words science, risk, and solutions are shown over a globe that is encircled in arrows.
The goal of the Climate Consortium is to coordinate and uplift centers, institutes, and initiatives related to climate science, climate risk, and convergent climate solutions to accelerate research innovation and foster societal impact.

Climate Science

Climate science involves tracking how the climate is changing and modeling the impacts of these changes on humans and the environment to better understand risks and develop solutions. Building on Penn State’s interdisciplinary strengths, the Climate Consortium catalyzes evidence-based decision-making around climate change mitigation and adaptation activities. In collaboration with partners and stakeholders, the Consortium supports innovation in climate science, data translation, and data visualization to inspire the next generation of students, scientists, and decision-makers.

Centers and initiatives in this area:

I believe firmly, deeply, that if we get the right information to people and show them the whole picture, that they will eventually make wise decisions... Dealing with climate change makes us better off than pretending it doesn’t exist.

Evan Pugh University Professor, Geosciences

Climate Risk

A focus on Climate Risk knits together strengths in resilience and vulnerability across Penn State to ensure communities (locally, regionally, and globally) have the best science and tools to understand and forecast risks from climate change. These risks intersect across multiple sectors, including infrastructure, financial markets, food and fiber production, ecosystem services, livelihoods, cultural identity and customary practices, individual and community health, and social well-being, and therein, require intersectional solutions.

Centers and initiatives in this area:

Convergent Climate Solutions

These five overlapping key areas of focus build on Penn State’s excellence and are foundational to advancing societal and environmental change.

Climate Justice and Equity

Climate justice is a multidimensional process that centers climate change and adaptation on the need for both 1) equitable distribution of climate-related burdens and 2) avoidance of further harm to present and future human and non-human generations. This process forefronts how, at present, climate-related burdens and adaptation pathways harmfully intersect with social, ecological, and political vulnerabilities and structural injustices to fuel further inequality. It also encompasses the activism that brings such injustice to light. Our scope is both global and local, and a hallmark of this theme is to elevate the voices of impacted communities, especially of those groups that have been historically excluded, underrepresented, and marginalized.

Centers and initiatives in this area:

As the impacts of the climate crisis are starting to unfold all around us, I don't think it's possible not to see the connections between energy, environment, and social justice.

Assistant Professor of Geography

Emily Rosenman and her collaborator, Esther Obonyo, are currently investigating what an energy transition could look like in a city with substantial segregation, many low-income people, and a large rental housing community. The IEE-funded seed grant project is titled Energy Retrofit Policy and Programs in Low-Income Housing Markets: Implications for Energy Equity in Cleveland, Ohio.

Climate Health and Wellbeing

Climate health and wellbeing encompasses the ways that climate change can and will exacerbate existing human health threats, as well as create new ones. This focus builds upon constellations of strength and emerging efforts at Penn State in the life, medical, data, and social sciences. Research frontiers include the use of artificial intelligence to forecast health and disease impacts of climate threats, indoor health and building energy efficiency, heat stress, changing pest and disease dynamics, landscape design interventions, food security, environmental stress impacts on mental health, and more.

Centers and initiatives in this area:

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Climate Change Education Through Storytelling

A new interdomain course at Penn State explores the impact of climate change and environmental sustainability on physical and mental health. Students translate climate change and environmental health issues into meaningful stories to invoke feelings of empathy, inspiration, or motivation for change.

Climate Law, Policy, and Governance

Climate law, policy, and governance is a focus on the development, management, and enforcement of laws and policies that help 1) reduce and reverse the drivers of a changing climate and 2) protect vulnerable communities from its present and future implications. This theme provides an outward face for local, state, national, and international engagement on energy and climate policy, including the recent Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan as an example. Penn State has faculty expertise in all areas relevant to planning for a sustainable climate future, and the Consortium serves a pivotal role in coordinating these research-to-action activities.

Centers and initiatives in this area:

Policies debates often pit the need to protect the environment versus the impact of policies on the economy. But policies can help the economy and impact people’s well-being. So, we looked at people’s projections of the policies' impact on the environment, economy, and society.

Professor of Psychology

In recent studies, Penn State researchers found that Americans support climate change policies, but they have clear preferences between policies that promote change through incentives vs. disincentives, or target individuals vs. businesses. By considering communication strategies and social impact, policy support and adoption can be improved.

Climate-Smart Technology, Infrastructure, and Management

An emphasis on climate-smart technology, infrastructure, and management involves redesigning and reshaping the urban built environment, agricultural landscapes, and forest ecosystems to mitigate and adapt to future climate challenges. These processes of reshaping provide critical opportunities for research innovation, novel educational training opportunities, and societal engagement and impact. Moreover, this theme supports research-to-practice and industry engagement activities to support innovative business models, products, processes, and policies that inform climate solutions.

Centers and initiatives in this area:

Penn State is dedicating research and its own activities to do everything possible to reduce carbon emissions. Penn State researchers, staff, and students are already addressing the local, national, and global challenges of climate change.

Through initiatives such as the Global Building Network, Penn State partnerships advance building science, construction process, and building management in order to create an international framework that will make buildings more sustainable, more efficient, and healthier for people.

Public Participation

Public participation in the form of collective and civic action, adoption of technical solutions, and individual behavioral change is essential to democratic climate solutions.

This theme is grounded in robust formal and informal science communication, including storytelling, public messaging, social media, socially engaged creative arts, and transdisciplinary research with communities. Penn State is helping to guide and shape this engagement across disciplines and sectors, leveraging existing strengths in psychology, media studies, agricultural extension, and centers of excellence.

Centers and initiatives in this area:

There is no one magic way to talk about climate change that will result in everybody understanding it and being motivated to do something about it... You can get people’s attention by telling them statistics of how threatening climate change is, but you won’t get their commitment to action without also instilling a sense of hope that we can do something and work together to reduce the harmful effects of climate change.

Professor of Media Studies

Collaborate with the Climate Consortium