Sustainability at the Smithsonian Institution: Responding to Climate Change | Smithsonian Institution

Sustainability at the Smithsonian Institution: Responding to Climate Change | Smithsonian Institution

Climate change is the existential threat of our time. As global temperatures rise and extreme weather events become more common, it is becoming clear that human-induced climate change is already affecting our environment and our way of life. At the Smithsonian, we understand this threat and believe that our global work can lead to solutions that make life on this planet more sustainable.

As part of the Smithsonian’s mission to increase and disseminate knowledge, our scientists have conducted decades of research revealing the impact of human actions, including the impact of climate change, on societies and ecosystems around the world. We work where humans and nature intersect – in forests, grasslands, drylands, wetlands and ocean ecosystems – to find actionable solutions to build a more sustainable planet. We lead research on marine and terrestrial ecosystems in collaboration with countries facing the worst effects of climate change. We build digital tools that make our data free and accessible, and that lower barriers to understanding and progress. Our study of sustainable architecture, design practices and new materials teaches us how we can mitigate the future impacts of climate change. Finally, our growing body of climate change and sustainability education efforts in more than twenty countries seeks to motivate people to act. Our position as the world’s largest museum, education and research complex gives us a unique opportunity to create and share critical knowledge with researchers, policy makers and the public that will help ensure a healthy future for our planet.

We believe in leading with optimism by crafting a bold and collaborative vision and action plan. This plan involves upgrading and expanding our scientific research to include new areas to understand how climate change is affecting our planet. It also includes developing more engaging and meaningful digital and personal experiences to educate the public about climate change. Finally, it includes adopting new policies that will enable our organization to operate more sustainably day in and day out.

Specifically, the Smithsonian Institution focuses on three priority areas:

  • SearchThe Smithsonian Institution will continue to develop and expand research and collaboration programs with scientists, governments, and communities around the world. The Foundation aims to work with its global partners to uncover the consequences of climate change and help find solutions to its impacts. For example, we study how threats to habitats, such as overfishing, rising sea temperatures and pollution, have reduced biodiversity, a key feature of a resilient and efficient ecosystem, and we identify opportunities to respond effectively. We work with local partners in Central America to reproduce species and build a foundation for carbon markets to restore ecosystems. We also examine how environmental damage affects human health, and how it disproportionately exacerbates health challenges in countries and communities least prepared to respond. Finally, we operate global networks to support international climate change research efforts while making our findings available through digital dashboards for use by all researchers. We hope this research helps provide equitable, nature-based resilience solutions that work for people and nature.
  • public engagementThe Smithsonian Institution will elevate public debate on climate change and sustainability through new public programs, exhibits, and digital and classroom learning materials. The Smithsonian Institution will also leverage its global connections to bring together thought leaders who can work together to accelerate change. By strengthening the Smithsonian’s educational efforts, we aim to help turn scientific knowledge into catalytic actions that policymakers and the public can take to slow climate change and make life on Earth more resilient to its effects.
  • Smithsonian SustainabilityThe Smithsonian Institution will continue to plan and implement a strategy to mitigate the effects of increasingly severe weather on its facilities and collections. This will include 1) improving how we protect our vulnerable facilities from flooding, 2) planning long-term solutions to prepare our groups for a changing climate, 3) adopting new policies to save energy and reduce our carbon footprint and 4) train our employees to engage in climate resilience practices.

Climate change is a multifaceted problem, but the Smithsonian Institution is confident that its multidisciplinary team of experts, in collaboration with global partners, will be able to identify effective solutions to the effects of climate change. The Smithsonian hosts museums and research centers around the world, featuring experts in science, history, culture, art, design, and architecture. The Foundation also collaborates with nations and indigenous communities around the world to advance understanding of the global impacts of climate change and to develop specific solutions that address key ecosystems across the planet. These resources place the Smithsonian Institution in a unique position to lead by example in research, education, and sustainability.

In this time of crisis, the Smithsonian Institution has renewed its commitment to studying the dramatic changes happening to our planet, educating the public on this important issue and using digital technology to facilitate equitable access to critical information that accelerates positive change. The Smithsonian Institution will continue to build the foundation for understanding these challenges; will relentlessly support biodiversity, ecosystem health, resilience and restoration; It will focus on innovative practices that seek to create viable solutions for a more sustainable planet.

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