University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

WHYY: Public debate muddies the waters in climate change education

The public debate over climate change has worked its way into science classrooms, where scientists say it has no place. The vast majority of climate scientists say that climate change is happening and it's largely due to human activity. But only about 40 percent of the American public believes that to be true. This divide in public sentiment is trickling down into science classrooms, injecting controversy into a topic that scientists don’t believe to be controversial.

Most middle and high school science teachers questioned in a recent national survey said they dedicated some class time to teaching global warming.

But in the same survey, conducted by the National Center for Science Education, or NCSE, more than a third of those educators said they introduce controversy into their lesson plans. Many reported sending explicitly contradictory messages about whether climate change is primarily a natural occurrence or man-made, making the scientific consensus seem weaker than it really is, said the NCSE’s programs and policy director Josh Rosenau.