Kids are not getting the climate education they need but this is not because of their parents or their teachers. Climate education has become a front-line issue in the battle against truth and kids are being used as pawns in an economically motivated war against reality. As reported by NPR, polls show that climate education has the support of parents (80%) and teachers (85%). Yet children are not getting the facts about climate change in public schools. A growing number of American adults (75%) acknowledge that the climate is changing but this message not being disseminated to kids.
Americans want their children to know the causes, consequences, and solutions to global warming. What makes this poll especially interesting in these hyper-polarized times is the fact that this view holds in all 50 states and 3000 counties. Ninety percent of Democrats agree as do half of Republicans.
Despite the overwhelming support for climate education, teachers are not integrating it into their curricula. So if both teachers and parents want kids to learn about the economic and societal impacts of global warming, why is this not happening?
The reason that climate change is not de rigueur in American schools is largely due to powerful economic interests. Specifically the fossil fuel industry and Republican legislators whom they help elect.
The fossil fuel industry is at the core of the climate crisis and they have known that they are a leading cause of climate change for decades. In a bid to retain their economic power they have declared war on science and sought to subvert the truth through a diverse array of sophisticated campaigns.
Campaign finance is one of the most powerful weapons they have deployed in their war against the facts. The GOP has been working for the fossil fuel industry for years, and in the age of Trump they have consolidated their control over Republicans.
Disinformation is disseminated through lobbyists, think-tanks and front groups. One of the most pernicious purveyors of climate denial is the fossil fuel funded Heartland Group. They promote policy that supports industry and their disinformation campaigns target kids in public schools. They provide “educational” materials (textbooks and lesson plans) that try to circumvent the facts about anthropogenic climate change.
Their lies have been deeply ingrained in the nation’s political discourse on education. Such disinformation has prompted a number of state legislators to question whether kids should be given access to the facts about climate change. In Idaho legislators said kids should not be taught that climate change is caused by human activity.
We have to face the grim reality that powerful interests are preventing kids from getting the information they desperately need. This is not just a human rights issue, this is a generational justice issue.
Kids need a climate education to navigate in the twenty-first century. Adults have done enough by creating the problem and then failing to address it. Those who seek to deny kids the right to a climate education are putting them in danger and if we do nothing to defend children’s right to the facts we are complicit.
Integrating climate change into science education standards is not just about building critical mass for climate action. It is about giving kids the tools they need to protect themselves from the world that we have made.