Climate change education in Colorado

07.28.2017

The Aurora Sentinel (July 27, 2017) reviewed the state of climate change education in Colorado, observing, "teachers, scientists[,] and government officials agree the controversial topic is handled disparately across the state," owing to state science standards that "seek to teach the accepted science of the issue, but also help students understand the controversy itself and come to their own conclusions."

NCSE's Glenn Branch described the state standards as "pretty wishy-washy" on climate change, taking issue particularly with the word "might" in a standard reading, "Human actions such as burning fossil fuels might impact Earth’s climate." A spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Education explained, "we left it broad ... so that it can be interpreted." The standards are expected to be revised later in 2017.

Spokespeople for the Aurora Public Schools and the Cherry Creek Schools told the newspaper that students in their districts are not taught that there are any scientific alternatives to human-caused global warming. One explained, "Our teachers focus on the science and on engaging students using evidence and knowledge to understand climate trends." Political controversies over climate change are sometimes discussed, however.

Paul Strode — a high school science teacher in Boulder who wrote a doctoral dissertation on bird migration and global warming — expressed frustration about the lack of reliable information on climate change for teachers, saying, "There is an overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming ... It is mind[-]blowing how much science denial and pseudoscience is out there. I don't get it."

The result is that when students reach college, they are often uninformed about climate change, as Eileen Skahill, a professor of sociology at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, reported. Indeed, she told the newspaper that she is sometimes pressured by students and parents to include or allow a discussion of supposed scientific alternatives to human-caused global warming in her classes.

NCSE's Glenn Branch emphasized the importance of presenting the scientific consensus on climate change: "We don't tell students that scientists are divided about the shape of the earth, because they're not. In the same way, we shouldn't tell students that scientists are divided about the fact that the climate is changing, and faster than it has in millions of years, on account of human activity, because they're not."