American Teens’ Knowledge of Climate Change

In a recent national study by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication researchers investigated American teen middle and high school students knowledge of how the climate system works, and the causes, impacts, and solutions to global warming.   Using a straight grading scale 54 percent of teens received a failing grade compared to 46 percent of adults.
Broken up into three parts, Understanding of Climate ChangeKnowledge Gaps, and Common Misconceptions, a wide array of information was discovered.
  • 54% of teens say that global warming is happening, compared to 63% of adults.
  • 57% of teens understand that global warming is caused mostly by human activities compared to 50% of adults.
  • 17% of teens have heard of coral bleaching.
  • 35% of teens believe that the hole in the ozone layer is a large contributor to global warming.
“American teens recognize their limited understanding of the issue.  Fewer than 1 in 5 say they are “very well informed” about how the climate system works or the different causes, consequences or potential solutions to global warming, and only 27 percent say they have learned “a lot” about global warming in school.  Importantly, 70 percent of teens say they would like to know more about global warming.

Eco-Schools USA

With an obvious need for green schools here’s where National Wildlife Federation can help.  Eco-Schools USA is a holistic green schools program which allows schools to work through various pathways to a more sustainable school environment and community.  By greening the school building, grounds, student experience, and curriculum students work within a diverse Eco-Action Team to audit, plan, implement, monitor, and share their sustainable practices.

In addition, Eco-Schools USA is doing its part to address student’s lack of climate change knowledge, by partnering with NASA to create a high school curriculum focused on understanding how climate change affects the various earth systems, as well as how the Eco-Schools program is an integral piece in creating our next generation of environmental stewards and champions.
Speaking of champions, our greatest educational achievement to date has been the historical announcement made April 26, 2011 by the U.S. Department of Education secretary Arne Duncan, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley; the creation of the Green Ribbon Schools award. Spearheaded by NWF, Campaign for Environmental Literacy, USGBC, and Earth Day Network, the Green Ribbon Schools award proposes to focus on-
  • curriculum, materials, and teacher training;
  • facilities (including energy, water, waste, and indoor environmental quality) and grounds (including school gardens);
  • operations (including food, transportation, building maintenance and purchasing);
  • community engagement and service learning.
With a greater federal investment in environmental education through the Green Ribbon Schools award, programs like Eco-Schools USA will have strength and momentum to do what it so strongly desires; to create an environmentally literate citizenry who are willing to actively participate as members of a community and nation that’s committed to sustainability.