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Addressing Doubt and Denial in the Classroom

Climate Change Denial: by Paula Spence for NCSE, 2012

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.

Climate Change Denial Is Affecting Education

Climate change denial is already threatening the integrity of science education in formal and informal education settings. In the public schools, such threats are primarily due to laws adopted or considered at the level of state government, policies adopted or considered at the level of the local school district, and actions adopted or considered at the level of the individual classroom, where teachers may either deny climate change themselves or encounter pressure from climate change deniers in the community.

The Pillars of Climate Change Denial

Attacks on the teaching of climate change tend to use certain rhetorical tropes, themes repeated again and again: these are the pillars of climate change denial. Briefly, they are:

Why Is It Called Denial?

There is a debate among those involved in social controversies surrounding climate change about how to refer to the positions that reject, and to people who doubt or deny, the scientific community’s consensus on the answers to the central questions of climate change. Many such people prefer to call themselves skeptics and describe their position as climate change skepticism. Their opponents, however, often prefer to call such people climate change deniers and to describe their position as climate change denial.

Supporting Climate Change Education

What can you do to support climate change education in your local community?

Defending climate change education

What can you do to defend climate change education when it is attacked in your local community?

Attacks on climate education are often encountered:

Climate Change: Taking Action

Taking Action logo: A cartoon petition, by Paula Spence for NCSE, 2012

Climate affects the way that we live in a host of ways, and now our changing climate presents a significant challenge to our society.

Communicating Climate Change to Students

An expert explains climate science to non-specialists

Climate science is challenging, both for educators to teach and for students to learn. And the topic of climate change in particular poses distinctive pedagogical challenges:

Teaching Climate Change

Teaching climate change logo: Teaching Climate Change logo, a blackboard reading 'climate change' by Paula Spence for NCSE, 2012

Climate has changed in the past — sometimes slowly, sometimes abruptly — but now it is changing because humans have

Climate Change Denial

Denialism logo, person with crossed arms over a shirt saying 'NO.' Image by Paula Spence for NCSE, 2012

Although scientists are in broad agreement about the occurrence, causes, and consequences of climate change, the topic is socially controversial.


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