The Climate Change Connection

In my line of work, I can’t think of a more contentious issue than energy. We need energy to live and work, but our wanton extraction of energy resources is responsible for some of our greatest environmental, economic, and political problems. When we talk about energy we must address not only the fundamental science, but also economic and political consequences, making energy one of the trickiest topics for teachers to address. How are teachers talking about energy issues with their students? One tool gaining popularity is the Energy Literacy Principles (PDF).

The Energy Literacy Principles were developed by a consortium of thirteen governmental organizations, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Health & Human Services. All these groups are interested in energy because it affects every aspect of our lives and involves everything from the environment and national security to food and even public health.

It’s good news, then, that the Department of Energy, in conjunction with NCSE and the American Geosciences Institute, developed these seven literacy principles into seven short videos—because what teacher doesn’t love a good movie?

So, why does NCSE care about energy? We care because energy literacy plays directly into climate change literacy. Our energy choices influence how people alter the climate. Principle 5—“Energy decisions are influenced by economic, political, environmental, and social factors”—gets to the heart of this idea.

In addition to showing the video, how might a teacher address energy decisions and their influence on climate? AGI developed a lesson plan for social studies teachers that addresses exactly that, examining the important decisions students will make once they become adult consumers, and role-playing the challenging choices they will face.

Energy and climate are inextricably linked, and these videos drive that point home. The principles are a good first step, but how we use them to educate others about the connections between energy and climate is up to us.