Position Statement - Teaching Climate Change

Drafting Committee: Andy Buddington (Committee Chair), George Stone, Mark Chandler, Scott Linneman

Download a copy of the Position Statement (Microsoft Word 27kB Nov10 08).


In 2007, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its fourth and most comprehensive assessment of Earth's changing climate. Compiled by some 2000 scientists representing 150 countries, the report presents the physical science basis for the assessment of climate change and its impacts, strategies for mitigation and adaptation to vulnerability, and a synthesis review. Many prestigious organizations of scientists, including the National Academies of Science (2005), the American Geophysical Union (2003, 2007), the American Chemical Society (2004), and the Geological Society of America (2006), have affirmed the IPCC conclusions (2001 and 2007) in position statements on climate change that call for intensive public education, increased awareness, and action on this important issue.


The National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) recognizes: (1) that Earth's climate is changing, (2) that present warming trends are largely the result of human activities, and (3) that teaching climate change science is a fundamental and integral part of earth science education. The core mission of NAGT is to "foster improvement in the teaching of the earth sciences at all levels of formal and informal instruction, to emphasize the cultural significance of the earth sciences and to disseminate knowledge in this field to the general public." The National Science Education Standards call for a populace that understands how scientific knowledge is both generated and verified, and how complex interactions between human activities and the environment can impact the Earth system. Climate is clearly an integral part of the Earth system connecting the physical, chemical and biological components and playing an essential role in how the Earth's environment interacts with human culture and societal development. Thus, climate change science is an essential part of Earth Science education and is fundamental to the mission set forth by NAGT. In recognition of these imperatives, NAGT strongly supports and will work to promote education in the science of climate change, the causes and effects of current global warming, and the immediate need for policies and actions that reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

NAGT further recognizes that climate, climate systems and climate change are best taught in an interdisciplinary manner, integrating the many relevant sciences into a holistic curriculum approach; that climate-change topics provide exceptional opportunities for students to learn how geoscientists study past, present, and future climate systems, including the essential role of computer models in the assessment of global climate change scenarios; and that a current and comprehensive level of understanding of the science and teaching of climate change is essential to effective education. In support of these goals, NAGT sponsors professional development programs for geoscience educators, including workshops, seminars, and teacher-scientist cooperatives, and disseminates "best teaching" practices for climate change in the Journal of Geoscience Education.