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Teachers need to communicate scientific consensus on climate change, Sander van der Linden writes

March 2, 2016

In the history of science, there have been few instances in which almost all experts in a particular field were in complete agreement. Climate change is one of those instances. Nearly two decades of research has converged on the following fact: Over 97 percent of climate scientists have independently concluded that human-caused global warming is happening.

In a new study published in Science magazine last week, Eric Plutzer and colleagues report a finding that should alarm the nation: Only 30 percent of middle-school and 45 percent of high-school scienceteachers in the U.S. are aware of the fact that nearly all climate scientists are convinced that global warming is caused mostly by human activities.

Here’s the kicker: The authors explain that although many science teachers themselves believe that climate change is happening, because most are not aware of the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change many opt to teach “both sides” of the so-called climate debate, mistakenly giving students the impression that the basic facts are still contested, rather than conveying the fact that there is a deep and well-established consensus among climate scientists.

A great deal of our own research, as well as that of many other researchers, has identified the importance of communicating the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.