Climate change education measures die in Congress

U.S. Capitol building

Two climate change education measures in the U.S. Congress — a bill containing a provision aimed at supporting climate change education and a resolution in the House of Representatives expressing support for climate change education — died in committee on January 3, 2023, when the 117th Congress adjourned sine die.

H.R. 4521, the America COMPETES Act of 2022, was amended on the House floor on February 2, 2022, to authorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to institute a competitive grant program aimed in part at developing and improving educational material and teacher training on the topic of climate change. The bill passed the House on February 4, 2022.

Among the legislative findings listed in the amendment were "[T]he evidence for human-induced climate change is overwhelming and undeniable” and “Only 30 percent of middle school and 45 percent of high school science teachers understand the extent of the scientific consensus on climate change" — a reference to the NCSE/Penn State survey (PDF) of climate change educators conducted in 2014–2015.

The amendment was introduced by Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan), who previously sponsored or cosponsored bills with similar provisions: H.R. 2310 in 2021, H.R. 2349 in 2019, and H.R. 5606 in 2018. Bills with similar provisions have also appeared in the Senate under the sponsorship of Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts): S. 966 in 2021, S. 477 in 2019, and S. 2740 in 2018.

House Resolution 29, which would have expressed the House of Representatives’s support for "teaching climate change in public and private schools at all grade levels," was introduced on January 11, 2021, by Barbara Lee (D-California) and twenty-six of her colleagues. The resolution is identical to House Resolution 574 from the previous legislative session, which also died in committee.

NCSE was mentioned in the resolution, as a source for the claim that "37 States and the District of Columbia recognize human-caused climate change in their science education standards": a more up-to-date assessment of the treatment of climate change in state science standards is provided in the 2020 report prepared by NCSE and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, "Making the Grade?"

Glenn Branch
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Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.