Climate Change Education

The driving question for this blog has been: How can we encourage more people to think clearly about climate change? This post focuses on educational materials for varied audiences, adding to the resources discussed in earlier posts. The examples below illustrate the diverse range of material available designed to help people learn about climate change. Notably, the first item draws heavily on the type of psychological and communications-related research about climate change that has often been highlighted on this blog.

The National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI) is a collaboration of zoos and aquaria in the U.S., like the New England Aquarium, many of which provide the public with information about climate change. Together with the Frameworks Institute, financially supported by the National Science Foundation, and based on extensive research, NNOCCI developed a 12-module, values-based, self-guided online course focusing on how to provide information about climate change in a form that is understandable to the public and that avoids traps limiting the usefulness of the information. NNOCCI says, as an example, that focusing too much attention on dangers caused by climate change (“the crisis trap”) may garner people’s temporary attention but can often lead to a feeling that nothing can be done; and, that the “do one thing to combat climate change” approach is inadequate because it does not help people understand the importance of more comprehensive strategies based on community-wide actions. The course is available free online at Frameworks Academy and focuses especially, but not exclusively, on climate change and the oceans, using the metaphor of the ocean as “climate’s heart.” NNOCCI suggests spending 45 minutes on each of the 12 video and print modules; however, you can quickly sample modules in the course to see whether it fits your needs.

There are many “massive open online courses” (MOOCs) related to climate change aimed at adults and college students (see Most are free of charge. I enrolled in Climate Change in Four Dimensions last year, an outstanding college-level course then offered by U.C. San Diego and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography through Coursera (which still offers related courses). The four dimensions in the title are science, policy, international relations, and psychology/communication. Lectures and many other resources from the course are still available online via YouTube, including presentations by Professor Naomi Oreskes, lead author of the books Merchants of Doubt and The Collapse of Western Civilization.

The science education standards developed collaboratively by dozens of states, called the Next Generation Science Standards, identify climate change as a topic that should be taught to all elementary and secondary school students. One website that curates climate change resources for use in schools and provides links to many of them is NASA also maintains a useful website about climate change, including resources for “climate kids.” The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) also offer useful resources, some for teachers and others for students.

Nonprofit groups across the country create slide shows and provide briefings aimed at state and local policymakers. These materials often focus on particular pieces of legislation related to climate change, such as proposed laws intended to increase use of renewable energy sources. There must be high quality briefing materials for national policymakers, such as members of Congress, but I cannot point to any. International organizations also develop educational materials for policymakers, such as a recent two-part IMF seminar on new opportunities to combat climate change that the IMF says are now possible in light of historically low oil prices.

I sometimes wonder why one does not see more spots or ads about climate change on television or in print, along the lines of public service announcements. I suppose that the answer is that a national media campaign focused on climate change would be very expensive and that no individual, foundation or organization has chosen to fund such a campaign.

One thought on “Climate Change Education

  1. Andy, I love the post about resources. Thanks for putting it out there!
    In terms of ads on TV, I wonder if big Biz and Oil are more in charge of our media than we might hope, and wouldn’t sell the spots for that purpose, or would pull the shows that advertised climate change.

    I was very glad the issue came up so prominently for a couple of the Democratic presidential debaters. Hopefully that reached a large audience.


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