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Addressing Doubt and Denial in the Classroom
Because climate change is a matter of social — although not scientific — controversy, it is important to be ready to address climate change doubt and denial in the classroom.
Science teachers have a responsibility to help their students understand, to the extent appropriate, the central methods and results of contemporary science. There is substantial scientific agreement around climate change: 97% of scientists who have published peer-reviewed scientific articles on climate change agree that humans have caused most of the increase in global temperature over the last 150 years (see Anderegg et al., “Expert credibility in climate change,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 2010). Science teachers thus have a responsibility to help their students understand climate change, the evidence for climate change, and the fact that the scientific community agrees that the evidence is convincing.
Science teachers should therefore:
By the same token, science teachers should not:
If you are being pressured not to teach about climate change or to teach “both sides” by a parent, colleague, administrator, or anyone else, get in touch with NCSE and we may be able to help.
The primary focus of the science classroom is, of course, science. While it is not necessarily inappropriate, and may be useful, to discuss climate change denial in the classroom as a social controversy, it is important not to do so in such a way that hinders student understanding of the science by misrepresenting the scientific agreement around climate change.
Similarly, although it is not necessarily inappropriate, and is indeed clearly useful, to discuss climate policy issues — in particular, what, if anything, should be done to mitigate or adapt to climate change — in the science classroom, it is important not to do so in such a way that wrongly suggests that science on its own is capable of deciding such policy issues.
Climate Change Denial discusses doubt and denial in detail, and the links in Resources for Teaching and Learning about Climate Change provide more information especially useful for educators. Or continue to the next section, and find out how to go about making climate change relevant in the classroom.
climate education resource search