Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Environmental Sciences and Management


Natural Resources Management


College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Dr. Seeta Sistla

Advisor 2

Dr. Priya Verma

Advisor Department

Natural Resources Management

Advisor College

College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Climate change literacy and knowledge are influential in enabling people to take climate change mitigation and adaptation actions. Education about climate change usually takes place through two avenues, formal education and informal institutions, such as museums, television shows, and websites. To help residents reduce their household greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the local impacts of climate change, the San Luis Obispo Climate Coalition is using the carbon footprint website Bright Action ( Bright Action calculates household carbon footprints, suggests ways to reduce carbon footprints, and provides educational material about climate change mitigation and adaptation. This study seeks to assess Bright Action’s effectiveness as an educational tool. The San Luis Obispo Rotary Club, Rotary De Tolosa, was used as a case study to compare the climate change knowledge of people who used Bright Action to those who did not. Climate change knowledge was sampled using pre- and post-surveys about one month apart. Participants self-selected based on whether they wanted to participate in the Bright Action group or as a non-participating control group. Qualitative trends were assessed using the text tagging software Taguette. Only 31% of participants on the pre-survey and 43% of participants on the post-survey could correctly differentiate between global warming and climate change on a free response question. Results from multiple questions showed that participants had gaps in climate knowledge about less common energy sources including: nuclear, hydrogen, and wood. When asked what actions they might consider to reduce their carbon footprint, participants chose carbon credits and reducing flying the least. These topics should be targeted for local climate change education. While 44% of participants on the pre-survey and 63% of participants on the post survey correctly described the greenhouse effect in their own words, 75% of participants on the pre-survey and 100% of participants on the post-survey could correctly define it on a multiple-choice question. Survey results indicate that most participants use the internet as their primary source to learn about global warming. Bright Action is an online platform; therefore, it could be an effective way of delivering climate change science educational material. Climate change knowledge scores were compared based on Bright Action participation, level of education, and level of concern using paired t-tests. No statistically significant effects of group membership on climate change knowledge were identified. These findings reflect the study’s small sample size and limited sample population. Future research should expand to a larger sample size of the general public for a better representation of the community of San Luis Obispo.