Climate Change Should Be Taught In Our Schools

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By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

You can’t escape the stories of the impacts of climate change these days. It weaves its way, undeniably, into the extreme weather the world is now experiencing.

Wildfires are becoming more frequent and intense, such as the ones that ripped through California last year. Droughts are becoming more expansive and last longer, heightening fire dangers.

As the atmosphere warms, it holds more moisture, creating more downpours and flooding of “biblical” proportions. Minnesota has seen a 42 percent increase in the number of heavy precipitation events it records – rainfalls of 8, 10 and even 17 inches over just two days have been recorded.

High-temperature records are falling at twice the rate of low-temperature records.

Coastal flooding caused by melting glaciers and polar ice caps is common with water coming up through storm drains on Florida streets during high tides. People living on low-lying islands are seeing the only homes they have ever known slowly covered with water.

Antarctica is now melting at six times that rate it was 30 years ago.

The military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff sees a danger in the changing climate.  It was five years ago now that the Pentagon released a report saying that climate change is a very real and imminent threat to America’s national security, AP reporter Coral Davenport wrote. The threats include “increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty, and food shortages.” All will destabilize governments already shaky and corrupt, governments lacking the ability to address the challenges these threats mean to their people.

And there is no easing of climate change’s impact ahead. “While 2018 was the fourth warmest year on record, British meteorologists are predicting the next five years will be much hotter, maybe even record-breaking,” Associated Press Science reporter Seth Borenstein writes.

Minnesota is one of the fastest warming states in America. That warming will change our landscape with the pine forests of the Lake of the Woods turning into a nearly treeless savannah in the coming decades.

With climate change in the news so frequently and having such a profound impact on the lives of everyone around the world, you would think that it would be a subject talk in our schools. It is perhaps the singular most crucial topic to the quality of life our children will live and the challenges they will face.

In a story for National Public Radio, education reporter Anya Kamenetz writes “80 percent of parents in the U.S. support the teaching of climate change. And that support crosses political divides.” She was reporting on the results of a new NPR/Ipsos poll looking into how American schools handle the teaching of climate science, teachers’ attitudes toward the subject, and how states are handling the issue.

As could be expected, Americans who identify as Democrats showed greater support for teaching climate science in schools (9 in 10) while just over 6 of 10 Republicans supported it. Teachers are more supportive of teaching climate science than the general public with 86 percent favoring it, Kamenetz writes. And, parents are more supportive of climate science education than the non-parents in society – 84 percent think it should be taught, she reports.

Despite strong support from parents and teachers for teaching climate science, a majority of educators avoid, neglect or pass on teaching it in their classrooms. The reasons for the omission are varied with some based simply on the limits of resources, qualifications on the subject and time, while others are based on fear or adverse policies.

Sixty-five percent say the topic is outside their assigned classroom subjects. Nearly one in three teachers fear if they teach climate science and its impacts, they will get complaints from teachers directed at them or their administrators.

They also don’t have the materials, know enough about the subject or, in 4 percent of the cases, their schools won’t allow the teaching of the subject, Kamenetz reports. It also isn’t a high priority in their daily grind of meeting just the basic courses offered to students.

Rural schools, faced with declining enrollment and the need to cut course offerings, don’t have the luxury of adding in electives despite their value to students. Yet, the impacts of climate change will deeply affect the lives of both those who move to the big cities and those who remain.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of climate change, there are still those who deny humans are the heart of the problem and could do something to slow it. President Donald Trump, who questions the science to satisfy his supporters, enables those who deny climate change is caused mankind.

The deniers are pushing bills in some state legislatures that would restrict or prevent the teaching of climate science.  They seek to give equal credence to what 97 percent of climate scientists say is real and what 3 percent argue isn’t. In some cases, they have argued that if doing something about climate change is in a party platform that it is disqualified from being taught in schools.

Knowing the causes of climate change is key to finding the solutions. Acknowledging that our warming climate is caused by human activity is essential to passing the laws that will address it. Children in our schools today will be the leaders of the future. They are the ones who will have to address the mess previous generations have created. They must be educated about climate change to give them the tools to be knowledgeable leaders.

Without a doubt when climate change is studied in the future, there will be chapters written about how this generation, while made aware of the dangers presented by a warming climate, ignored the evidence.


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