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Teaching Climate Literacy in High Schools & Universities

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In this talk, given November 2019 at the Lund University Teaching and Learning Conference, I answer four research questions.
The TL DN answer is in () below, see slides for more details:
1. What does one need to know to be climate literate? (Understand the IPCC Summary for Policymakers, which we made into a teaching framework, please use it!)
2. How well do universities teach climate literacy? (poorly)
3. How well do high schools teach climate literacy? (poorly)
4. How much do high schools focus on high-impact climate actions? (very little)

Published in: Education
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Teaching Climate Literacy in High Schools & Universities

  1. 1. A university climate curriculum based on synthesis science @KA_Nicholas Kimberly Nicholas Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS) kimnicholas.com Warming stripes for Sweden, 1860-2018, Bolin Centre 1
  2. 2. @KA_Nicholas Guardian, 2017 Sweden’s climate law: 85% emissions reductions by 2045 2
  3. 3. @KA_Nicholas #FridaysForFuture, 15 March 2019 3
  4. 4. Research questions 1. What does one need to know to be climate literate? 2. How well do universities teach climate literacy? 3. How well do high schools teach climate literacy? 4. How much do high schools focus on high-impact climate actions? @KA_Nicholas 4
  5. 5. Research questions 1. What does one need to know to be climate literate? 2. How well do universities teach climate literacy? 3. How well do high schools teach climate literacy? 4. How much do high schools focus on high-impact climate actions? @KA_Nicholas 5
  6. 6. Key SPM Messages 19 Headlines on less than 2 Pages 2009: WGI Outline Approved 14 Chapters Atlas of Regional Projections 54,677 Review Comments by 1089 Experts 2010: 259 Authors Selected Summary for Policymakers ca. 14,000 Words 3rd Lead Author Meeting, Marrakech, Morocco, April 2012@KA_Nicholas 6
  7. 7. Synthesis Science on Climate @KA_Nicholas It’s warming It’s us We’re sure It’s bad We can fix it 7
  8. 8. Support for climate policy and social action linked to key beliefs @KA_Nicholas Ding et al., 2011, Nature Climate Change 8
  9. 9. @KA_Nicholas http://www.kimnicholas.com/climate-science-101.html 9
  10. 10. Qualitative coding of IPCC Synthesis Report, 2014 @KA_Nicholas 10
  11. 11. @KA_Nicholas Nicholas et al., 2015, http://www.kimnicholas.com/climate-change-curriculum.html Design by Pontus Ambros 11
  12. 12. It’s Climate @KA_Nicholas 12
  13. 13. It’s Warming @KA_Nicholas 13
  14. 14. Nicholas et al., 2015, http://www.kimnicholas.com/climate-change-curriculum.html Design by Pontus Ambros It’s us @KA_Nicholas 14
  15. 15. Nicholas et al., 2015, http://www.kimnicholas.com/climate-change-curriculum.html Design by Pontus Ambros It’s bad @KA_Nicholas 15
  16. 16. We can fix it! Nicholas et al., 2015, http://www.kimnicholas.com/climate-change-curriculum.html Design by Pontus Ambros @KA_Nicholas 16
  17. 17. Research questions 1. What does one need to know to be climate literate? 2. How well do universities teach climate literacy? 3. How well do high schools teach climate literacy? 4. How much do high schools focus on high-impact climate actions? @KA_Nicholas 17
  18. 18. 56% of 70 int’l courses on climate teach only one of 6 topics @KA_Nicholas 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70Coursescoveringtopic Nicholas et al., 2015, http://www.kimnicholas.com/climate-change-curriculum.html 18
  19. 19. Research questions 1. What does one need to know to be climate literate? 2. How well do universities teach climate literacy? 3. How well do high schools teach climate literacy? 4. How much do high schools focus on high-impact climate actions? @KA_Nicholas 19
  20. 20. Wynes & Nicholas, 2019, PLoS ONE
  21. 21. Wynes & Nicholas, 2019, PLoS ONEFigure: Emma Li Johansson Canadian high schools teach human warming, not consensus, impacts or solutions N=10 provincial curricula and learning objectives
  22. 22. Research questions 1. What does one need to know to be climate literate? 2. How well do universities teach climate literacy? 3. How well do high schools teach climate literacy? 4. How much do high schools focus on high-impact climate actions? @KA_Nicholas 22
  23. 23. 2010 emissions must be halved globally by 2030 to be on track to limit warming to 1.5°C (IPCC 2018) Wynes & Nicholas, 2017, Environmental Research Letters @KA_Nicholas Graphic by Catrin Jakobsson 23
  24. 24. Budget for household emissions for <1.5°C: 2.5 tons/person/year in 2030 (1.5° Lifestyles Report) @KA_Nicholas One roundtrip flight NYC-London= 64% of a sustainable annual carbon budget Wynes & Nicholas, 2017, Environmental Research LettersGraphic by Catrin Jakobsson 24
  25. 25. Only 4% (10/216) actions mentioned in Canadian high school textbooks are high-impact Wynes & Nicholas, 2017, Environmental Research LettersGraphic: Catrin Jakobsson
  26. 26. Some reflections Photo: Tobias Schwarz/Getty Images
  27. 27. Emissions pathway to stay below 1.5°C warming: must plummet towards zero @KA_Nicholas Source: https://www.cicero.oslo.no/no/posts/klima/stylised-pathways-to-well-below-2c • Rapid transition away from coal, oil, & gas • Reduced animal agriculture • Increase carbon in soils and vegetation 27
  28. 28. @KA_Nicholas 29
  29. 29. Conclusions • There is an urgent need for a comprehensive, research-based climate change course in higher education, which at present is largely unmet. • Current climate education tends to be narrowly focused and misses many of the most important elements of climate literacy. • Climate education must stop failing 21st century students. • Universities have a responsibility and opportunity to lead by example in putting our research into teaching and practice. @KA_Nicholas 30

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