As I head back to school and prepare to teach my students all about environmental topics, including atmospheric pollution and climate change, I’m reflecting on the importance of climate literacy for everyone. I’ve been extremely disappointed by recent comments from politicians that demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of basic science principles including human reproduction and transmission of infectious disease, or a complete denial of climate science. If these politicians are representing my interests, shouldn’t they understand scientific principles that impact me? Shouldn’t we all understand how the world works, whether it’s human biology or atmospheric science?
I graduated from high school in 1999, and while I took many science courses, I never took a course in environmental science and I never learned any of these topics. I majored in Biology and spent hours dissecting specimens, but I never learned about climate change. I became interested in environmental topics and started educating myself on my own time by reading articles and books, watching documentaries, and talking to other educated people. After I finished my first MS degree, I decided to keep on going and started working toward a second MS degree in Environmental Education. I studied side by side with people who had a desire to really understand how our environment works. Though I decided to take a break from my studies to spend more time with my family, I still continue to read and learn more on my own. And I look forward to continuing my education someday.
Do you feel that you’re “climate literate”? Do you know the make-up of the atmosphere, understand the greenhouse effect, and know the difference between global warming and ozone depletion? Ten or even five years ago my answer would have been NO! The good news is that anybody can learn climate science. If you didn’t learn it in school, that doesn’t mean you’ll never become climate-literate. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you don’t know!
5 Ways To Develop Climate Literacy
1. Identify what you don’t understand and develop questions to answer.
Since I’m a teacher, I plan every topic with a goal in mind and have some objectives. Are you wondering how climate change could impact your area? Do you know how they develop models that predict the impact of climate change? Have you seen the evidence for climate change? Or maybe, more basic things are what you’d like to learn: how exactly does carbon dioxide impact the greenhouse effect, and what does that mean for us? Write down your questions and start learning. But on the other hand, you don’t always need to have a specific question in mind. Your goal can just be to learn something new.