Science Policy & Funding AGU News

Climate Science Day on Capitol Hill Connects Scientists and Policy Makers

Climate scientists gathered in Washington, D. C., to meet with congressional staff and to emphasize the importance of climate science and its role in protecting jobs, infrastructure, and public safety.


On 10–11 February, 23 scientists from 13 states traveled to Washington, D. C., to build relationships with members of Congress and explain the importance of climate science research.

The political landscape could not have been better for the fifth annual Climate Science Day. A recent Pentagon report cited climate change as a major threat to national security. In his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama declared that “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” In January, the Senate voted 98-1 that climate change is not a hoax.

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) jointly hosted the event with nine other Earth and space science organizations. The event included a half-day training session on how to best communicate with Congress members and staff. Participants also heard from a panel of current AGU Congressional Science Fellows and worked in groups to practice how to effectively communicate key messages.

Participants attended a total of 88 meetings with Congress members, their staff, and select congressional committees. These conversations were an opportunity for scientists to share information about their research with their district representatives and with others. Through these conversations, they underscored the importance of climate science in supporting economic growth and national security. Ongoing climate science research is a crucial component of mitigating extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and other consequences of rising global temperatures, and these meetings gave participants a chance to demonstrate how federal support and funding for climate science help protect American jobs, infrastructure, and public health and safety.

These conversations, which facilitate and strengthen mutually beneficial relationships, are a vital component of AGU’s efforts to bridge the gap between legislators and professional scientists. One of the great strengths of Climate Science Day is simply demonstrating that scientists are prepared to invest in science policy issues and share their expertise with policy makers.

One Senate staffer thanked participants with some advice to her colleagues: “Don’t just know the right answer, know the expert.” By reaching out to their representatives, Climate Science Day participants established themselves as a valuable resource to those responsible for crafting federal science policy.

Climate Science Day is one of several AGU programs that promote the importance of science on Capitol Hill and connect scientists with their representatives. AGU and partner organizations also host briefings, exhibitions, and additional Congressional Visits Days. These include Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day to be held on 17–18 March 2015 and Geoscience Congressional Visits Day, which will take place in late September (to be announced).

For more information on AGU congressional events, visit AGU’s science policy website. To find out how you can get involved, please email [email protected].

AGU thanks the following members for participating in the 2015 Climate Science Day:

Jonathon Overpeck, University of Arizona
Michael Stein, University of Chicago
Jan Hopmans, University of California, Davis
Leonard Smith, London School of Economics
James Elsner, Florida State University
Kim Cobb, Georgia Institute of Technology
Matt Sitkowski, The Weather Channel
Matt Huber, University of New Hampshire
Carol Anne Clayson, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
Peter DeCarlo, Drexel University
Douglas Ray, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

—Lily Strelich, Public Affairs Intern

Citation: Strelich, L. (2015), Climate Science Day on Capitol Hill connects scientists and policy makers, Eos, 96, doi:10.1029/2015EO025321. Published on 4 March 2015.

© 2015. The authors. CC BY-NC 3.0