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Climate In The Classroom

Concern about climate change has been rising among Americans in recent years, but it's still not as high as a lot of scientists and advocates would like, particularly given the towering piles of research showing how quickly our planet is warming. But how to convince ideological outliers who turn a blind eye to the science and deny our climate reality? Turns out, it may be good to start with their kids.

New research published in Nature Climate Change this spring indicates that when children learn about climate science in school, their parents are likely to become significantly more concerned about the global warming. The shift is most pronounced in conservative parents, followed by parents of daughters, and men.

"This study tells us that we can educate children about climate change and they're willing to learn, which is exciting because studies find that many adults are resistant to climate education, because it runs counter to their personal identities," says lead author of the study, Danielle Lawson, a PhD student at North Carolina State University. "It also highlights that children share that information with their parents."

The study involved 238 middle school students and 292 of their parents in North Carolina. All participants were given a survey at the beginning of the research, asked to rate their concern about climate change on a 17-point scale from -8 (not concerned at all) to +8 (extremely concerned). More than half of those students then received climate change curriculum in their science class. The remaining students were part of a control group.

Once the climate curriculum had been completed, the students and parents were asked to complete a second survey. "We found that there was an increase in climate concern for both the experimental and control groups, but that the shift was much more pronounced in families where children were taught the curriculum," Lawson says of the results.

The level of concern among conservative parents in the experimental group increased by a whopping 4.77 points after their children completed the climate curriculum, compared to a 0.25-point bump in the control group. Perhaps most notably, the gap between liberal and conservative parents shrunk from 4.5 points to just 1.2 points once their kiddos had learned more about climate science.

The researchers attribute these changes to the fact that youth are often less ideologically rigid than adults, and thus open to learning new ideas. Adults, in turn, may be more receptive to new viewpoints when they come from their children, rather than from other sources.

DMU Timestamp: November 27, 2019 01:26

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