Voices for Climate Change Education

Many leading scientific and educational groups have expressed support for teaching climate change in college, high school, grade school and informal settings. Here are some of their statements:

US Government

National Research Council of the National Academies of Science of the US, Climate Change Education: Goals, Audiences, and Strategies (2011):

The reality of global climate change lends increasing urgency to the need for effective education on earth system sciences, as well as on the human and behavioral dimensions of climate change, from broad societal action to smart energy choices at the household level.

National Research Council of the National Academies of Science of the US, Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change (2010):

The climate-related decisions that society will confront over the coming decades will require an informed and engaged public and an education system that provides students with the knowledge they need to make informed choices about responses to climate change. Today’s students will become tomorrow’s decision makers as business leaders, farmers, government officials, and citizens. Our report finds that much more could be done to improve climate literacy, increase public understanding of climate science and choices, and inform decision makers about climate change, including an urgent need for research on effective methods of climate change education and communication.

US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP):

People want to know how climate change and variability affect their lives and livelihoods and whether humans can and should do something about global warming. There is a growing imperative for the actionable climate and environmental information that is needed to inform resource management, planning, and other decisions taking place across the [n]ation.

Educational Organizations

American Federation of Teachers

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers affirm, through a positional statement on its website, the validity of using scientific inquiry methods to address the issue of global climate changes; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT affirm, through a positional statement on its website, that arguments against the current scientific model on climate change be subjected to the standard rigor and scrutiny of the relevant field instead of being subjected to manipulation by special interest groups; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT call upon its members to assist those engaged in overseeing science education policy to understand the nature of science, the content of contemporary climate science and the inappropriateness of including non-science in our science curriculum.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego:

Human activities are changing the composition of the atmosphere and causing Earth's temperature to rise at an unprecedented rate. Educating the public, especially school-age children, about the environmental changes likely to occur within the next 50 years due to climate warming is not only socially responsible; history shows that the fortunes of human health and civilization may depend on it.

Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums:

CAZA and its Institutional Members, recognizing the threats from climate change facing species, habitats and biomes both in Canada and throughout the world, commit to increasing the quality and quantity of their actions to counter the threat of climate change as well as promote awareness of the impact that climate change is having on the Earth’s biodiversity.

National Association of Biology Teachers:

The overwhelming preponderance of peer-reviewed studies and the vast majority of climate scientists agree that Earth’s atmosphere is warming and climate changes since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution are anthropogenic and due primarily to the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. ... Educators should not misrepresent climate science as “controversial.” They must teach global climate change in an effective, detailed, and scientifically- and pedagogically-honest manner and work to encourage the development of and support for standards, curricula, textbooks, and other instructional frameworks that prominently include global climate change and reflect current consensus understanding of its mechanisms. 

National Association of Geoscience Teachers:

The National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) recognizes: (1) that Earth's climate is changing, (2) that present warming trends are largely the result of human activities, and (3) that teaching climate change science is a fundamental and integral part of earth science education.

National Council of Teachers of English:

Resolved that the National Council of Teachers of English encourage teachers and teacher educators to

  • resist the politicization of climate science by evaluating curricular texts for scientific credibility;
  • lead students to engage thoughtfully with texts focusing on social and political debates surrounding climate change; and
  • work with teachers in other fields to implement interdisciplinary instruction on climate change and sustainability.

National Science Teachers Association:

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) acknowledges that decades of research and overwhelming scientific consensus indicate with increasing certainty that Earth's climate is changing, largely due to human-induced increases in the concentrations of heat-absorbing gases ... 

NSTA recommends that teachers of science

  • recognize the cumulative weight of scientific evidence that indicates Earth's climate is changing, largely due to human-induced increases in the concentration of heat-absorbing gases ...;
  • emphasize to students that no scientific controversy exists regarding the basic facts of climate change and that any controversies are based on social, economic, or political arguments and are not science; ... [and]
  • teach climate change as any other established field of science and reject pressures to eliminate or de-emphasize climate-based science concepts in science instruction

Professional Science Organizations

American Geological Institute:

The American Geological Institute (AGI) strongly supports education concerning the scientific evidence of past climate change, the potential for future climate change due to the current building of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and the policy options available. Understanding the interactions between the solid Earth, the oceans, the biosphere, and the atmosphere both in the present and over time is critical for accurately analyzing and predicting global climate change due to natural processes and possible human influences.

American Geophysical Union:

Members of the AGU, as part of the scientific community, collectively have special responsibilities: to pursue research needed to understand it; to educate the public on the causes, risks, and hazards; and to communicate clearly and objectively with those who can implement policies to shape future climate.

American Meteorological Society:

Efforts to properly teach climate science are regularly challenged by those seeking to frame it as somehow different from other scientific subjects, often with claims that it is either “uncertain” or “controversial.” They advocate the need for a special approach to its teaching, such as added effort to balance perspectives. With this statement, the AMS seeks to confirm the solid scientific foundation on which climate change science rests, and to emphasize that teaching approaches different from other sciences are not warranted. Uncertainty is a natural component of all scientific endeavor. The existence of uncertainty does not undermine the scientific validity of climate change science; to the contrary, it provides a sound example for broader instruction of the scientific method.

Geological Society of America:

[T]he Geological Society recommends that its members take the following actions: Actively participate in professional education and discussion activities to be technically informed about the latest advances in climate science. … Engage in public education activities in the community, including the local level.

The American Chemical Society recommends the development of:

a national strategy to support climate change education and communication that both involves students, technical professionals, public servants and the general public, as well as being integrated with state and local initiatives. A national climate education act could serve as a catalyzing agent to reinvigorate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education across the nation.

International Organizations

UNESCO, Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development (2010, PDF):

What children learn today will shape tomorrow’s world. Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development (CCESD), therefore, has a central role to play in helping the general public and especially the next generations understand and relate to the issues, make lifestyle changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and adapt to the changing local conditions. While CCESD at all levels and in both formal and non-formal settings is needed, instilling climate change awareness and understanding at a young age is ultimately the best way to change behaviours and attitudes.