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NESTA poll on climate change education

The National Earth Science Teachers Association released the executive summary of its 2011 on-line survey on climate change education, which examines (PDF) the responses of 555 K-12 educators in the United States who teach about climate change. These teachers generally accept the scientific consensus on climate change, with 89% agreeing that global warming is happening and only 13% attributing it mainly to natural changes in the environment. Only 63% of the general public in the United States agree that global warming is happening and as many as 35% attribute it to natural changes, according (PDF) to a 2011 report from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

Over a third of respondents to the NESTA survey — 36% — reported that they "have been influenced in some way (directly or indirectly) to teach 'both sides' of climate change." Although only 5% reported that they were required to teach “both sides” of climate change, 47% reported that they taught "both sides" because they thought that "there is validity to both sides." About 38% of respondents agreed that "students have misconceptions about climate change that are hard to address"; about 25-30% reported that students, parents, administrators, or community members have disputed with them that climate change is happening or is the result of human activity.

A full report of the NESTA survey responses from active K-12 climate change educators is expected to be released in early 2012. NESTA's survey was informally conducted on-line, as was a similar survey conducted among the members of the National Science Teachers Association in 2011. (The NSTA survey found that 82% of respondents reported having faced skepticism about climate change and climate change education from students, 54% reported having faced such skepticism from parents, and 26% reported having faced such skepticism from administrators.) A rigorous survey of the prevalence and nature of climate change skepticism in the classroom apparently remains to be performed.