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Climate change education around the world

"From Mauritius to Manitoba, climate change is slowly moving from the headlines to the classroom," reported The New York Times (April 20, 2014). "Schools around the world are beginning to tackle the difficult issue of global warming, teaching students how the planet is changing and encouraging them to think about what they can do to help slow that process."

The article acknowledges that the process is often politically contentious. In the United States, opposition to the Next Generation Science Standards often centers on their treatment of climate change; as NCSE previously reported, the Wyoming legislature voted to block funding for any review or adoption of the standards in March 2014 for that reason. One legislator complained that the standards "handle global warming as settled science."

Charles Anderson, a professor of teacher education at Michigan State University, explained that without standards that include climate change, science teachers might be inclined to avoid the topic, saying, "This doesn't feel like a very safe topic to teach. The science is conceptually difficult, and it's controversial. I might get complaints from parents and it's not part of my current curriculum, and so I'm not going to take it on. "

But the barriers to climate change education are not merely legislative, they are systematic as well. Anderson explained, "The number of students who will not get education on climate change because of the financial and lack of adequate curriculum and teacher training issues is much larger than the number who will not get education on climate change because somebody in the legislature opposes it."

Various countries were cited as making progress in climate change education in different ways: "Some nations teach climate in science classes and others in geography, while others again integrate the idea of sustainability across a range of subjects. China has included sustainability education in its outline for school reform, and Japan has written it into curriculum guidelines, according to Unesco."

But climate change denial is present outside the United States too. The Times noted, "In Britain, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, an organization of climate change skeptics, has accused schools of brainwashing students with political indoctrination similar to that in Mao Zedong's China," accusing politicians of "effectively handing much of the curriculum to green activists."