According to a new national study, Americans overwhelmingly support teaching our children about global warming – in all 50 states, including Connecticut – and including Republican and Democratic strongholds. Despite this strong public support for climate education, however, there have been recent debates in several state legislatures about whether to include climate change in K-12 science education.
Classrooms have become the latest battleground over climate change science. For example, the politically libertarian Heartland Institute recently mailed lesson plans dismissing the scientific consensus that global warming is happening to teachers across the nation.
The fact that climate change is happening and human-caused is not a matter of scientific controversy: many studies have examined climate scientists’ conclusions about global warming and have found levels of scientific consensus similar to the level of scientific agreement that smoking causes cancer (i.e., above 95 percent).
The most recent effort to challenge the teaching of climate change in the school curriculum happened in Idaho. Several Idaho legislators suggested that students should not be taught that climate change is human-caused, but instead given opposing arguments and allowed to “decide for themselves.”
In response, Idaho teachers and citizens argued that failing to teach children the scientific facts about climate change would rob them of important information crucial not only to their scientific education, but also to their future in a rapidly warming world. After several years of debate, the Idaho state legislature finally approved the teaching of climate change as part of the school curriculum.
Connecticut is not Idaho. Many teachers, however, need training and support to implement climate-change science standards in their classrooms. Recent research published in the leading scientific journal Science found that many teachers nationwide are themselves not certain about climate change. For example, of the educators who do teach climate change, many tell their students the cause is uncertain, while 30 percent incorrectly teach that recent global warming is natural. Supporting and empowering educators to teach the scientific facts about climate change is critical.
Here in Connecticut several state legislators have co-sponsored Senate Bill 345:
“An Act Concerning Climate Change Education in Connecticut Schools.” The bill encourages public schools to teach lessons on climate change consistent with the national Next Generation Science Standards, with support from the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
In a recent study of public opinion conducted by my research team at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, we found that 81 percent of the Connecticut public supports teaching “our children about the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to global warming.”
Connecticut is already a world leader in developing innovative solutions to climate change. Let’s empower our kids with the knowledge and skills they will need to thrive in our rapidly changing world.
Anthony Leiserowitz, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Scientist at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies at Yale University.