Who Can Best Change the Minds of Climate Doubters? Their Own Kids!

Scientists, politicians and environmentalists alike have all tried to convince climate change doubters to evolve their thinking on the planetary catastrophe that awaits us, but often those warnings and pleas fall on deaf ears. A new study suggests that the best way to get through to these doubters may be via their own children rather than experts.

A research team at North Carolina State University recruited a couple hundred families in the state to track whether a carefully designed climate change curriculum could not only be useful for students, but also rub off on their parents. Refreshingly, the study’s results demonstrated that, yes, parents will listen to their kids on this issue.

Middle school students who underwent the curriculum were encouraged to not only share what they learned with their parents, but also use them for help with their homework. One assignment tasked kids with asking their parents to describe any changes in weather and sea level that they’ve noticed over the years.

That planned engagement paid off because by the end the parents of the kids in this program were, on average, 4 points higher on a 17-point scale measuring their level of concern about climate change than parents of students who weren’t in this program.

To be fair, the control group used in the study (i.e. the people who didn’t receive the climate-related instruction) also demonstrated a moderate rise in worry over global warming over a two-year span. The researchers suspect, however, that’s just the consequence of the whole country seeing boosts in acceptance of the phenomenon; in North Carolina specifically, research shows that the onslaught of hurricanes has made climate converts out of former doubters.

“This model of intergenerational learning provides a dual benefit,” said lead researcher Danielle Lawson. “[It prepares] kids for the future since they’re going to deal with the brunt of climate change’s impact, and it empowers them to help make a difference on the issues now by providing them a structure to have conservations with older generations to bring us together to work on climate change.”

The researchers also highlighted a couple other interesting points from their data. For starters, it was political conservatives and fathers that made the biggest leap in their worries about climate change. That’s probably due to these groups having furthest to go on accepting climate change, but it’s heartening to see that they aren’t so closed-off to not listen to their kids’ understanding of the environment.

Additionally, daughters did a better job of passing on their climate concerns to their parents than sons. The researchers guessed that could be because girls communicate better in their preteen years than boys, but admitted they weren’t sure why that disparity occurred. Whatever the reason for that, more power to the girls and women who stand up to take leadership roles in the climate change movement.

A couple weeks back, a separate study showed that most teachers are hesitant to address climate change in their classroom even though they want to. Hopefully, educators will use this subsequent research as motivation to pull the trigger since this approach is effective.

Climate change needs to be addressed immediately, and although it’s good to prime the next generation to do its best to tackle it, it’s even better to get their parents on board for the cause now. That’s all the more reason to promote this intergenerational learning design in classrooms everywhere.

28 comments

heather g
heather gyesterday

Well, at least they are being properly educated - they make good teachers.

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Hui S
Hui S1 days ago

fascinating read, and true on so many accounts. students can make great teachers.

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David C
David C5 days ago

Yeah! thanks!

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill5 days ago

thanks

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Freya H
Freya H5 days ago

Kids are more savvy than we think. Their young minds are still flexible and receptive. Also, this latest generation has a front row seat to the reality of climate change.

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Katrina Coupe
Katrina Coupe5 days ago

Ive been telling my niece and nephew the real truth for years well since they were able to talk and understand. that theres no such thing as climate change its only so cute til your grown out of the phase of believing in fairy tales its cute when my niece and nephew believe in fairy tales there five and 3 but just plain dumb when i see adults believe in fairy tales like the article its time to grow the hell up and shut up your not a cute child anymore your an adult act like one and dont believe in fairy tales

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Jan S
Jan S5 days ago

Thanks

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Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn6 days ago

Many thanks to you !

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Danuta W
Danuta Watola6 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Olivia H
Olivia H6 days ago

thank you for sharing

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