On Earth Day 2019

A new poll from NPR on teaching climate change shows support for that teaching across the board.

More than 80% of parents in the U.S. support the teaching of climate change. And that support crosses political divides, according to the results of an exclusive new NPR/Ipsos poll: Whether they have children or not, two-thirds of Republicans and 9 in 10 Democrats agree that the subject needs to be taught in school.

A separate poll of teachers found that they are even more supportive, in theory — 86% agree that climate change should be taught.
And yet, as millions of students around the globe participate in Earth Day events on Monday, our poll also found a disconnect. Although most states have classroom standards that at least mention human-caused climate change, most teachers aren't actually talking about climate change in their classrooms. And fewer than half of parents have discussed the issue with their children.
Just 45% of parents said they had ever discussed the topic with their own children.
About 3 in 4 respondents in our nationally representative survey of 1,007 Americans agreed that the climate is changing. That figure is in line with previous results from Ipsos and other polls.
 Parents, do you talk to your kids about this issue beyond, say, recycling? 
A plurality of all parents support starting those lessons as early as elementary school. And though it may be a controversial subject, 65% of those who thought climate change should be taught didn't think parental permission was necessary. Among Republicans, the corresponding figure was 57%.
What about teachers?
In fact, 86% of teachers believe climate change should be taught in schools. In theory.
But in practice, it's more complicated. More than half — 55% — of teachers we surveyed said they do not cover climate change in their own classrooms or even talk to their students about it.
The most common reason given? Nearly two-thirds (65%) said it's outside their subject area.
For example, almost a third of all teachers say that when it comes to teaching climate change, they worry about parent complaints.
In our poll, teachers who do not teach the subject were allowed to choose more than one reason. They named many obstacles.
  • 17% say they don't have the materials.
  • 17% also say they don't know enough about the subject to teach it.
  • 4% say their school does not allow the subject to be taught.
Moreover, there also seems to be a divide in terms of resources, attitudes and support between teachers who cover climate change in their classrooms and those who don't.
About States
Since 2013, 19 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, created by a consortium of states and science authorities to strengthen the teaching of science. The standards instruct teachers to cover the facts of human-caused climate change beginning in middle school.

Others — including in Arizona, Maine, South Dakota and Virginia — would prohibit the teaching of any issue included in a state political party platform, on the grounds of anti-indoctrination. Florida's bill prescribes "balanced" teaching for "controversial" science subjects.
What About the Kids?
NPR Ed found in an analysis that in just one semester, the fall of 2017, for example, 9 million U.S. students across nine states and Puerto Rico missed some amount of school owing to natural disasters — which scientists say are becoming more frequent and severe because of climate change.
The Schools for Climate Action Summit in Washington, D.C., in March, was instigated by students in Northern California whose communities were ravaged by wildfires. They also brought together students affected by Hurricane Harvey in Houston and by agricultural droughts on tribal lands in New Mexico to lobby at the Capitol.


Anonymous said…
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seattle citizen said…
I went to an Earth Day event when Earth Day was first rolled out in 1970 - our high school back east had a teach-in in the parking lot, with booths and speakers and such.

We were making some small progress until the current administration came along, with its absurd "clean coal" supports and its deregulation of all sorts of other extractive industries.

Sun Spots likely means how do we keep a certain politician from rallying his base by denying climate change, which is itself a fact and apolitical.
Anonymous said…
First lets have the people who are screaming "the world is ending" stop flying around the world burning up vast amounts of fuel while screaming the world is ending due to petroleum use.

Then have those same people explain to me why I should modify my uses while China and India continue to produce the most pollution in the world. Are the liberals going to start a war with other countries who refuse to stop using carbon?

Finally there isn't enough materials to replace every non electric car with an electric car. Then we can and should talk about the massive amount of very toxic waste created by the alternative energy companies.

Butterflies and hummingbirds not they make!

Sun Spots
Outsider said…
Considering the non-stop saturation of mainstream media with climate change themes, do you really think students need more lectures at school to be aware of the issue? Students would need to have their noses in their phones 24x7 to be unaware that the world is ending in 12 years. All evidence would seem to indicate that students are much more concerned about the issue than, for example, old-fart boomers, or parents struggling to feed and house those students for the remaining 12 years that we have. My kids, for example, have demanded to quit soccer because it's immoral to drive to all the practices and games. OK, kidding about that last part.

By politics, the first guy probably meant how, in classic "shock doctrine" style, the progressive left tries to smuggle huge parts of its larger agenda into any program to save us from climate change. Not making this up. Read the "green new deal" and note how expansive it is.

The climate science of climate change might be settled, with hardly any dissent left among scientists who still have a job or want to keep one. But the economic consequences of de-carbonization are not at all settled. Progressive politicians like to peddle a fairy tale about how switching from cheap, high-EROEI energy sources to expensive, low EROEI sources will actually boost the economy. Good luck with that. Also, good luck trying to discuss the concept of EROEI in a public school.
Anonymous said…
I can tell from a few of the comments that it's a good thing that I do teach climate change to my middle school students. No conspiracy theories, no "over-the-top" rhetoric, just plain old facts and evidence.

Anonymous said…
I would like see your just plain old facts and evidence.

I'll wait

Sun Spots
Sun Spots, yes, people are still flying. And yes, it's a huge carbon emission. But people still want to see people and places and it's the fastest way to do it. Someday we will have a fuel that will meet that challenge and, if we don't, most of us will have to stop flying.

The U.S. shouldn't try to do better because others aren't? Not buying that one at all. One, because China actually is trying (I can't speak for India). And two, the U.S. is the world leader. We should be setting an example.

"... the massive amount of very toxic waste created by the alternative energy companies."

One, source please. And two, I'm supposing you think wind power causes cancer, too.

Thanks, Science teacher, we need you now more than ever.
seattle citizen said…
Okay, Sun Spot, I'll bite: What are YOUR solutions for the problems being caused by the pollution we create?
Don't do anything because, waah, India and China aren't doing as much!
Don't do anything because, waah, tech companies have waste!
Don't do anything because, waah, people still use airplanes!

Waah, waah, waah, poor you, being asked to do something about rising sea levels, massive storms, a burning globe.

It's such a onerous ask, isn't it, that YOU propose some ways to deal with these problems! So difficult!

Why NOT just punt, why NOT just complain about damn liberal do-gooders?

Anonymous said…
No, I don't think you understand that the production of energy storage systems AKA batteries produce some of the most toxic substances around. The mining of those raw materials used in the production of the storage systems cause pollution and destruction. The batteries end up in leaching out in landfills and vacant lots.

Wind power dosn't work without wind and some sort of energy storage and similarly solar doesn't work without sufficient light and storage.

I have a hard time believing that you what China is doing. Your a education blogger and do not work in an industry where you would know what China is or is not doing.

I on the other hand probably have forgotten more on the subject than you have ever known. You seem to have a snide comment on everything. It's like you just can't say "I don't know"

Enough with your snide comments please.

Sun Spot
Anonymous said…
Again, lets start with people like you that believe the sudo science. If you really believe it then stop using gas, plastics. Stop using asphalt roads. You won't because I think you are full of it.

Whaa on that!

Sun Spot
Anonymous said…
There is nothing anyone can do about rising sea levels or forest fires. I find it hard to believe the total lack of understanding of history, science and thermodynamics most of you commenting here have.

Why was North America covered with ice up to 1 mile in thickness? Where did that ice go? What caused the great floods on earth. Why did the Europe cool around 1000 AD then start warming. Why did once lush tropical areas turn to deserts long before the first oil well well drilled.

These natural disasters you bring up have nothing to do with humans except that humans have choose to build towns and cities in places where they shouldn't.

Every single river flood plane in the heart of America has been restrained with levees to contain the natural flooding that help bring in nutrients. You claim that because a 500 year flood happens that man caused it. Do you know they purposely breached levees and open overflow spill ways?

You seem to have a strange view of the world.

Sun Spots
Anonymous said…
Sun Spots…I'd perhaps have more respect for your "facts" if you could spell simple scientific terms: pseudoscience, not sudo science.

I agree that we are in many ways past the point of no return. That does not mean, however, that we do nothing to try and stem the bleeding or cure the patient.

I for one am not ready to give up trying. And yes, I drive a car—a Prius, but rarely. I work from home; my husband takes the bus to work. We take public transit when it's doable. I take a plane once a year to visit my 88-yr-old mother in NY state. My vacations consist of camping. I garden with 50% native plants; my yard is a certified backyard wildlife habitat. I grow a ton of food when the weather permits; kale overwinters quite nicely. We minimize our purchase of plastic, use things until they wear out, and repurpose everything we can, etc. In other words, I walk my talk.

I am a graphic designer who works on a publication for a national organization of engineering geologists, many of whom work for the oil/gas industries, mining, etc. They are all schooled in the earth sciences and even though major changes to curb climate change will affect their industries, the vast majority of them believe in the science of man's influence on climate change.

Just what are your credentials?

seattle citizen said…
Sun Spot is, evidently, a sudo psyentist with unpeckable crudentials.
Waaaay smarter than all of us put together.

Thank you, SolvayGirl, for trying to minimize your footprint.
I'm done with MY snark; just has to blow off steam...
Anonymous said…

I was involved in the Electric vehicle challenge at the UW and worked in alternative energy designing pure sine wave inverters, multi stage chargers, lithium batteries, and state of charge monitors. My work took me to China many times. I have first hand experience with how much China pollutes the land, sea and air.

These so called oil replacing electronic based technologies that many are claiming will save the planet will not, in fact because of the byproducts like components toxins multiplied by the vast quality of units needed to replace oil and gas they will create large amounts of highly polluted super fund types sites and many more strip mines.

I have a hard to seeing how humans will replacement oil and gas so therefore I don't believe it will not happen anytime soon. Certainly not within 12 years.

On another sad note. When visiting one of the largest bicycle mfgs in China I was shocked at the pollution levels of heavy metals, solvents and PFCs that were simply buried in the land fills. You think all those bikes are so earth friendly but they are not when you consider the manufacturing process and all the damage in mining the raw materials. These bikes are here today and they are lime green. Go figure!

It sounds like you have a lifestyle that you enjoy and that's great, but I enjoy other things. I'm more worried about pollution and the plastics in our oceans. Those plastic are not coming from the USA, we here are already doing more than any other nation in stopping pollution. Unlike China that simply dumps plastics from the USA into the ocean, the same plastics that people assumed are being recycled.

Humans are more likely to poison the planet long before causing it to "burn" up.

Sun Spots
Anonymous said…
@ Seattle citizen

You're a thinker of enormous wisdom.

Sun Spots
seattle citizen said…
So we shouldn't make efforts, Sun Spot? We shouldn't educate, learn, practice, minimize where possible?
If I haven't been exposed to Earth Day in 1970, if I hadn't sat on the banks of the Hudson in 1971, listening to Pete Seeger sing songs to raise funds to clean up that river (which IS much cleaner than in '71) I wouldn't have the ethos of trying to do SOMETHING.

You just leaned right in and attacked, laid your despair all over the place....You can keep your negativity and holier-than-thou attitudes; I will continue to try to fix things. AND try to instill that in the next generation.
Anonymous said…
Sun Spot,
Thank you for your courage to present an opposing viewpoint regarding climate change. As seen in this thread and elsewhere, you will be attacked if you don’t toe the line.
I have a scientific/engineering background myself, and am skeptical of “the end is near” claims of climate change believers.

Boeing scientist
Anonymous said…
Ok, Sun Spots, you have some cred. But your negativity is just so negative. I assume you have children or at least care about children. Otherwise, why are you on this blog—just so you have one more place to be a climate change denier? So, if you care about children, why don't you care about TRYING to do something about all of these environmental problems of which there are so very many?

And yes, it is not JUST climate change. It is habitat loss for a vast variety of species—both essential and non-essential to human life. It is the poisons we pump into our air and water. The plastic we wantonly use and discard. The myriad of useless stuff we buy just because—it's the backbone of capitalism after all.

I stand with Seattle Citizen (we're from the same era, so I guess that just means old hippies die hard). I too will continue to educate, practice, and minimize where possible, and I will vote for representatives who work to put the brakes on progress for the sake of progress if it means destroying the environment. And, BTW, as a human who came of age in the 1970s, I am also a proponent of the ZPG movement. Curbing population growth—especially in places on the planet that cannot support human life—is essential to the health of this planet. Unfortunately, sea-level rise is going to mean that the liveable parts of our planet will continue to shrink! I'm just glad that according to the worst-case scenario projections by the UW for sea level rise, my house stands on Graham Island!

Jet City mom said…
India has been making steady progress towards increasing sustainable forms of energy.


Anonymous said…
@ Jet City mom

Have you been to India? I have and it's worst than China.

People in India can't afford electric cars most drive 2 cycle scooters or something akin to a tuk-tuk.

I visited an electronics recycling company to see if we could do business with them. They had children burning circuit boards outdoors. The kids had zero safety gear and the fumes and residue from that process are probably the worst second only to nuclear waste.

There are zero environmental laws in India to stop this type of business and even if there were I doubt they would follow them.

Great people, but the have a long way to go.

Sun Spots

seattle citizen said…
I have similar concerns to Sun Spot's regarding many new technologies. Electric cars and electronic toys (and this computer) have serious environmental problems themselves.
I don't have an answer, but hope we continue to investigate and evolve cleaner systems.

Boeing Scientist, I know few people saying "the end is near!"
What I hear is people saying there are significant problems we are facing, rapidly evolving problems that we are causing, and these problems will impact many people very soon. Hell, they're impacting people now as sea levels rise. And that we should address them, partly because we are causing them. Those industries in China and India that are polluting as they make electronics are making them largely for us.

As the cartoon I've seen a couple of times makes clear, oh how terrible it would be, huh, if while trying to address climate change we accidentally made a cleaner, healthier planet.

We can wallow in negativity, decry failed technologies, or we can continue to search for better ways.

(The biggest impact we can have is to simply stop having kids for a generation. Well, most of us; we need a few kids, obviously...We need to reset the population down to something more sustainable.)
Jet City mom said…
Yes, I have. My aunt lived there for 40 years, my daughter did her gap year there, and I have many friends who have lived or work in India.

Cheezman said…
Stop engaging with Sun Spots. Sun Spots has decided that this is all ideological and Sunspots therefore makes the choice to ignore it. Sun Spots is ignorant.

There are now multiple daily stories that chronicalling the life changing Global Warming already happening. Driving Prius's, working from home, recycling, is not going to do anything. Dire is happening now and will of course be even more dire for our kids. I'm to the point where I savor every cool day as a pleasant anomaly. I will try to get out into the natural world more to enjoy it while it exists and then lament what now seems the likely fate of so much beauty. Humans don't like hopeless dire, naturally, and seek to minimize it with false optimisms. I urge you to read about the subject and try not to look at it as ideological. The Uninhabitable Earth, getting a lot of buzz right now, is a well written and researched place for you to start with your reality slap in the face.

As for the teaching of the topic, I'm wondering now how to talk about this with my daughters. Whereas I got to grow up blisfully unknowing about Global Warming, they do not, and of course that is sad. The existential equivalent of a giant asteroid is heading for their earth and they haave the curse of knowing about it. Parents, how do you suggest we deal with this?


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