New Bill Could Help Teach Young People About Climate Change

Senator-elect Ed Markey gives a thumbs-up while speaking at the Massachusetts state Democratic Convention in Lowell, Mass., in this July 13, 2013 file photo. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MICHAEL DWYER
Senator-elect Ed Markey gives a thumbs-up while speaking at the Massachusetts state Democratic Convention in Lowell, Mass., in this July 13, 2013 file photo. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MICHAEL DWYER

In a push to improve climate education across the country, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a bill to create the Climate Change Education Program on Friday. The program would help educate the public on climate change solutions, the dangers caused by climate change, and small changes people can make in their daily lives to help combat the environmental problem.

“The focus of the content would be the basics of climate change, how it works, the impacts it has, as well as the solutions to climate change — which include clean energy,” Giselle Barry, the spokesperson for Markey’s office, told ThinkProgress.

The program would include “formal learning” in classroom curricula as well as “informal learning” opportunities. The informal learning would include public service announcements or campaigns and outreach to post-secondary schools, community centers, and community groups, according to Barry. Further, the program would include information on climate change’s impact on human health and safety, as well as on new technologies, programs, and incentives related to energy conservation, renewable energy, and greenhouse gas reduction. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would establish the program.

Using the latest science in a national education program could help overcome the problem of inaccurate science being taught in U.S. classrooms. One survey earlier this year found that 30 percent of teachers teach their students that climate change is “likely due to natural causes,” while another 31 percent teaches climate change as unsettled science. The same survey found that many teachers were unaware of the undeniable consensus on climate change.


30 Percent Of Teachers Are Teaching Students That Climate Change Is ‘Likely Due To Natural Causes’Climate by CREDIT: shutterstock Most students in the U.S. are learning about climate change in schools, according to a…thinkprogress.orgThe bill states that providing information on climate change can remove the “fear and the sense of helplessness, and encourage individuals and communities to take action.” Indeed, Barry noted that there are two levels of climate action: the policy level and the personal level. The personal level “involves your actions on an everyday basis that amplify the understanding of climate change so that what you do in your home, what you do in your car, what you do in your office has as much of an impact as the lawmaker level,” she said. “It’s a practical application of the science itself.”

Getting the Climate Change Education Act passed has been an ongoing process. Last summer, Markey introduced the bill in the Senate after failing to get the program passed through an amendment to another bill. In 2015, Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) introduced a similar bill. But these bills haven’t ended up succeeding in Congress, so Markey and seven other Senate Democrats reintroduced the Act again Friday, which was the one year anniversary of Pope Francis’s historic encyclical on climate change.

Currently, the Next Generation Science Standards are an example of climate education standards that organizations like Climate Parents believe can help the nation’s teachers provide students with an accurate climate change education. So far, 16 states have adopted the standards. Markey’s act on climate education could help fill the gap in states where the Next Generation standards aren’t applied.

Parents Blast Climate Denial In Schools: ‘You Have To Teach Real Science’Climate by CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DARRON CUMMINGS New national standards for teaching science in public schools have sparked…“When roughly one third of kids are learning false or misleading information about an issue so important to their futures, it’s time for Congress to step up and ensure that kids receive a quality climate science education that includes solution pathways,” Lisa Hoyos, the co-founder of Climate Parents, told ThinkProgress.

National climate education programs should “speak to the diversity and range of the residents of our country,” said Hoyos, who also does climate education work within Latino communities. “The more accessible in terms of language and cultural fluency, the better.”


Another aspect of the bill requires NOAA to create a grant program to support programs that engage large numbers of people in understanding climate change. The grant program would encourage programs that promote teacher training, professional development, STEM education, and improved access to higher education in “green collar industries.” Grants for research on climate mitigation and adaptation in local communities would also be included.

Funding through the grants would be offered to “integrate key principles of climate change education into existing K-12 State academic content standards, student academic achievement standards, or State curriculum frameworks.” This language implies that funding would largely depend on whether each state opts-in to including climate change in science curricula. For Hoyos, the worry is whether or not an education program like this will be implemented in standard science curricula across all 50 states.

Students are receiving the “short end of the stick” when they don’t receive climate change education, Hoyos said.

“We don’t want to see our kids be afraid. We want them to see themselves as agents for the specific changes we need to implement to keep our kids safe. We need them to be aware voters and innovators,” she said. “That all starts with an education that is accurate and comprehensive.”

Sydney Pereira is an intern with ThinkProgress.