Misinformation about climate change is distressingly common in the United States — a 2014 Yale study found that 35 percent of Americans believe that global warming is caused mostly by natural phenomena rather than human activity, and 34 percent think there is a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether global warming is even happening. (In fact, an overwhelming majority of scientists agree that climate change is here and that it is caused by humans.) One way to stop the spread of this misinformation is to teach children about climate change.
The Next Generation Science Standards offer one guide for doing so. Developed by a committee of scientists and education experts and honed by teams in 26 states before their release in 2013, the standards set forth a variety of scientific practices and concepts for students from kindergarten through 12th grade to master.
Middle school students should understand 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.” In high school, students should learn that human-caused environmental changes, including climate change, “can disrupt an ecosystem and threaten the survival of some species,” and they should be able to use climate models to determine the rate of climate change and its possible effects.