By Chloe Bennett
A new book about America’s slow adoption of climate change education could hit shelves in the next couple of years. Paul Smith’s College professor and researcher Joseph Henderson was recently approached by a publisher to write about his research on the topic, which spans social and science studies.
The study of climate change education is relatively new, Henderson said. But the field is expanding as public discourse around climate change has intensified in recent years.
“There’s so much energy going into it now,” Henderson, 42, said. He plans to submit a book proposal this summer.
As of 2019, around 55% of teachers in the U.S. do not teach climate change in their classrooms, according to a random survey of 505 teachers conducted by NPR and France-based research company Ipsos. Most of the respondents who did not cover climate change said it was unrelated to their class subject. In most states, including New York, climate change is taught only in science classes.
One part of Henderon’s climate education research has focused on interdisciplinary approaches, which introduces the topic to non-science classrooms.
“There’s an assumption that if you teach people climate change, they will then use that information to make the world a better place,” said Henderson, who is on the Saranac Lake Board of Education. “And that’s a misguided assumption.”
Henderson said students should understand the social context and repercussions of climate change. Pollution and other environmental hazards have historically burdened communities of color more than affluent, white neighborhoods, environmental justice advocates and scientists say.
“It’s not really enough to just look at the science,” Henderson said. “You have to ask questions about political power. You have to ask questions about culture. You have to ask questions about the orientation of the international system.”
Current New York State public education standards require teachers to include climate change in science curricula.
Legislation to establish climate change in other classes has circulated in the state Legislature in recent years, including a pending bill before the Assembly Education Committee introduced by Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, D-Brooklyn.
It calls for the commissioner of education to create a model curriculum for all elementary and secondary schools that includes climate change in social studies, history, mathematics and other subjects. Previous versions of the bill dating to 2019 have stalled in committee.