Next Generation Science Standards

Lawmakers and Campaigners Fight Climate Science Denial in the Classroom

Last month, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and seven other Democrats introduced a bill to establish a nationwide climate science curriculum to teach high school students about man-made global warming.

The Climate Change Education Act mandates the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to create a climate science curriculum that would ensure students better understand “climate change and its effects on environmental, energy, social, and economic systems.”

The bill would “encourage and support statewide plans and programs for climate change education… to ensure that students graduate from high school climate literate, with a particular focus on programs that advance widespread State and local educational agency adoption of climate change education, including funding for State education agencies.”

Few think Markey’s bill stands a chance of passing in a Republican-led Congress. Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) introduced a similar bill in 2015 that died in committee.

Although positive action on climate change will likely have to wait for a new Congress to be seated, many advocates of climate science curricula in schools are not waiting.

New National Standards Ask Schools to Teach Climate Change

This is a guest post by Juanita Constible, Science and Solutions Director of The Climate Reality Project, cross-posted with permission.

As a scientist, I know how important it is for our kids to get a top-notch science education. So it’s extremely significant that a new set of national science standards – the first to be released in over a decade – explicitly ask our schools to address climate change.


The Next Generation Science Standards lay out core ideas K-12 students should understand about the basics of science – from biology, to physics and chemistry, to earth science. The last national standards were released back in 1996, and manmade climate change wasn’t mentioned. However, the new standards recognize that students need to know human activities are changing our climate. They also recognize that schools are training the next generation of engineers and scientists who can help solve the problem.

In the standards for middle school, for example, one of the core ideas is that “human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (‘global warming’).” The standards for high school note that “changes in the atmosphere due to human activity have increased carbon dioxide concentrations and thus affect climate.”

This is welcome news after a disheartening couple of months in the science education world. In February, news broke about the industry-funded Heartland Institute’s plans to push misinformation about climate change into schools. (Yes, the same Heartland Institute that compared people who believe in climate change science to mass murderers. Many schools already avoid teaching about climate change because some teachers (and parents) view the topic as too controversial. (Of course, there’s nothing controversial about the underlying science.)

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