Climate and energy sciences are rapidly evolving with respect to both knowledge and available technology. At the same time, citizens of all ages need accurate, up-to-date information, knowledge of the sciences, and analytical skills to make responsible decisions and long-term plans regarding these challenging topics.

Increasing climate and energy literacy requires a shared effort by the scientific and technical communities and the education and outreach communities. The Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN; http://​­cleanet​.org) sets an example for how these communities can collaboratively contribute to increasing climate literacy.

CLEAN contributed to and has used the U.S. Global Change and Research ­Program–​­endorsed guides “Climate literacy: The essential principles of climate science” (CLEP) [U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2009] and “Energy literacy: Essential principles and fundamental concepts for energy education” (ELEP) [Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 2012] to guide its work. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the Department of Energy led the development of CLEP and ELEP, respectively, with significant contributions from the broader scientific community.

CLEAN has two components accessible through its portal. The first provides resources for educators, including the CLEAN Collection—a collection of vetted educational resources; pedagogical support pages with teaching strategies and tips; and recorded presentations by climate, energy, and education experts. The second is the CLEAN Network—a community of professionals, partners, educators, resource developers, and other stakeholders committed to climate and energy literacy.

CLEAN Resources for Educators

The CLEAN Collection (http://​­cleanet​.org/​clean/​­educational​_resources) includes more than 610 resources—activities, videos, visualizations, and short demonstrations and experiments—culled from more than 14,000 online educational resources that address CLEP and/or ELEP. These resources were reviewed for scientific accuracy, pedagogical effectiveness, and technical quality both by a panel of educators and scientists and, separately, by expert scientists [Gold et al., 2012]. The breadth of interdisciplinary topics in the fields of climate and energy requires many expert scientists to conduct rigorous reviews, and CLEAN has engaged more than 250 scientists and educators in this process thus far. Resources that pass review are aligned with science education standards, tagged with metadata, and published with annotations from the review process.

CLEAN widget
Fig. 1. A screen shot of the widget that enables users to search the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) Collection from partner websites on which the widget is embedded.

CLEAN also provides pedagogical support pages for teaching climate and energy (http://​­cleanet​.org/​clean/​­literacy). These outline the common misconceptions and challenges of teaching these topics and suggest effective classroom approaches. To help with teaching content and with engaging students, the CLEAN portal also provides recordings of scientists and educators for undergraduate instructors [Kirk et al., 2014] and secondary teachers [Grogan et al., 2012] (http://​­cleanet​.org/​clean/​­community/​­workshopsandwebinars​.html). A portal into the CLEAN Collection can be added to any Web page through a widget (Figure 1; available at http://​­cleanet​.org/​clean/​­about/​­widget​.html) that allows users to search for educational resources on specific topics in the CLEAN Collection.

The quality of the CLEAN Collection makes it a reliable resource. For example, NOAA now features the CLEAN Collection as its main education resource collection in the “Teaching Climate” section on the portal (http://www​.­climate​.gov/​­teaching).

CLEAN Network

The CLEAN Network (http://​­cleanet​.org/​clean/​­community) is the most long-lived part of the CLEAN effort, with a listserv with more than 440 members (https://​list​.terc​.edu/​­pipermail/​­climateliteracynetwork/) and weekly teleconferences (Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. U.S. Eastern time).

Through the listserv and teleconferences, members discuss ways to support CLEP, ELEP, and the new K–12 Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; http://​www​.­nextgenscience​.org/). Members also collaborate to support climate change education efforts, regardless of their funding source, audience, methods, or ­topical/​­regional focus.

Since tracking of email traffic began in September 2009, the listserv has averaged about 79 messages monthly. A 2013 members’ survey indicated that those who cannot join the weekly teleconferences still read and appreciate the listserv exchanges. ­Forty-​one percent of respondents felt that the CLEAN Network was essential or very important to their daily work, and 96% felt it was important at some level [Ledley et al., 2014].

The CLEAN Network Web page also points visitors to an analysis of gaps and thin spots in the CLEAN Collection to guide community members seeking to add to educational resources. It also includes online submission forms for new resources, details about the review process for educational materials, and information on how to become involved in the community.

The CLEAN Web pages also outline how to bring the CLEAN Collection of educational resources to partner websites through Web links via the CLEAN widget (Figure 1) or through syndication (the process by which the CLEAN Collection appears in NOAA’s ­Climate​.gov “Teaching Climate” portal).

CLEAN also extends its reach through Facebook and Twitter, accessible from the CLEAN Network Web page, where climate and energy education information activities and featured CLEAN Collection educational resources are posted.

Supporting and Leveraging CLEAN

Everyone is welcome to use the CLEAN Collection of educational resources in teaching about climate and energy. There are multiple avenues to leverage and support CLEAN. You can link to the CLEAN Collection through the CLEAN widget or search link URLs submit educational resources for review to fill gaps in the collection volunteer to serve as a reviewer of climate and energy educational resources join the CLEAN Network (visit http://​­cleanet​.org/​clean/​­community/).

Climate change is an urgent societal problem. Educators at all levels can help address this problem. CLEAN is working to facilitate this; however, it requires a shared effort with the scientific community. We look forward to sharing this responsibility with AGU scientists.


The authors thank Susan B. Sullivan, Cathryn A. Manduca, Sean Fox, and the CLEAN team for their contributions to the development of CLEAN. Research for this project is funded by NOAA (NA12OAR4310143, NA12OAR4310142), the National Science Foundation (NSF; DUE-0938051, DUE-0938020, DUE-0937941), and the Department of Energy. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed here and on the website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF, NOAA, or the Department of Energy.


Gold, A. U., T. S. Ledley, S. M. Buhr, S. Fox, M. McCaffrey, F. Niepold, C. Manduca, and S. Lynds (2012), ­Peer-​­review of digital educational resources: A rigorous review process developed by the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN), J. Geosci. Educ., 60(4), 295–308.

Grogan, M., T. S. Ledley, and S. Buhr (2012), Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN)—Interactive webinars for teacher professional development, Abstract ED23A-0737 presented at 2012 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 3–7 Dec.

Kirk, K., S. B. Sullivan, A. U. Gold, T. S. Ledley, C. A. Manduca, D. Mogk, and K. Wiese (2014), Undergraduate climate education: Motivations, strategies, successes, and support, J. Geosci. Educ., in press.

Ledley, T. S., A. U. Gold, F. Niepold, and M. McCaffrey (2014), Moving toward collective impact in climate change literacy—The Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN), J. Geosci. Educ., 62(3), 307–318.

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (2012), Energy literacy: Essential principles and fundamental concepts for energy education, report, Dep. of Energy, Washington, D. C. [Available at http://​www1​.eere​.­energy​.gov/​­education/​­energy​_­literacy​.html.]

U.S. Global Change Research Program (2009), Climate literacy: The essential principles of climate science—A guide for individuals and communities, report, 17 pp., Washington, D. C. [Available at http://​www​.­globalchange​.gov/​­resources/​­educators/​­climate​-­literacy.]

—Tamara Shapiro Ledley, TERC, Cambridge, Mass.; email: ­Tamara_Ledley@​terc​.edu; Anne U. Gold, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science, University of Colorado Boulder; and Frank Niepold, Climate Program Office, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Silver Spring, Md.

© 2014. American Geophysical Union. All rights reserved.

© 2014. American Geophysical Union. All rights reserved.