How U.S. teachers teach about global warming

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) recently published an interesting report (PDF) of a survey of U.S. science teachers that gives an idea how they are talking about climate change.

The good news is that the subject is fairly widely taught, despite the potential political pushback. On the other hand, most teachers haven’t had much formal training about it, and many, even those who realize that global warming is caused by human activity, aren’t aware how strong the consensus is in the scientific community. Some political and business interests are still succeeding in sewing doubt about what is now a pretty well established fact.

The NCSE website has a page of links to other relevant polls on its website. Gallup, for example, reports that as of 2014 a fourth of Americans question global warming (likely because they’re misinformed about it, I suspect), convinced that any warming is the result of natural variation. That percentage has doubled since 2001. The deniers were outnumbered by the 39 percent who were aware of and accepted the strong science evidence human activity is responsible for the currently observed warming, but that percentage had declined from just under half in 2001. The rest of the public is unsure what to believe or whether global warming is a problem. Two-thirds of the skeptics are men, and 80 percent are Republican. Curiously, years of education doesn’t seem to correlate with opinion on this.

Somewhat more encouraging opinion data come from Yale University’s climate communication website. A lot of people who aren’t sure about the science nevertheless think prudence requires doing something about the at-least-potential problem, for example.

Pew Research also finds that in most of the world outside the U.S., recognition of the problem tends to be much stronger. This may be tied to the fact that from what I’ve read, most conservative as well as moderate and liberal parties recognize the need to address global warming, with the U.S. Republican Party the only notable exception. That’s incidentally a recent development; many Republican politicians supported doing something about global warming until pretty recently, and I think Trump is the only party’s first president to call global warming a “hoax.” One exception: The Chinese appear even less concerned than Americans about the dangers of climate change. China and the U.S. are of course the two largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, though in China the government has lately taken steps to reduce them, and the U.S. is also on target to meet is obligations under the Paris Accords despite the fact that President Trump started the process of withdrawing from that agreement effective immediately after the next presidential election.

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