The steadily increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in recent decades has been paralleled by a steady increase in scientific understanding about and consensus that humans are the primary cause of recent climate change. Public understanding and acceptance of this consensus has lagged behind. This gap between scientific and public understanding is one likely explanation for the lack of concerted international action to address the dual threats of climate change and ocean acidification, a second and equally worrying consequence of rising CO2 levels.
How to reverse this trend, and instill a greater sense of urgency in the public to act? We see youth as especially fruitful foci to increase general societal awareness about and action on climate change and ocean acidification for several reasons. First, young people have more at stake with climate change, as they will live to see increasing impacts stemming from a failure to act. Second, young people have repeatedly been shown to be more receptive to accepting new information than are adults. Third, our youth are the voting citizens, business leaders and politicians of tomorrow, so a change among young people today would of necessity translate to societal change down the road. And finally, many studies show that the most effective way to reach parents with information that might result in behavioral change is through their children.
But simply learning about the issue is not enough. In order for people to be empowered to take action to address an issue, they need to be literate about the issue. Literacy encompasses having a broad understanding of the issue, having the ability to communicate about the issue in a variety of contexts, and finally having the ability to see how action can make a difference, i.e. learning has a performative element of being willing to intervene.
Therefore, our project is designed to promote climate and ocean literacy in young people. We will do so by producing and disseminating free-to-use, quality hands-on and IT educational tools that: inform about climate change and ocean acidification; provide platforms for students to discuss the issue and possible solutions with their classmates, with experts, and with peers around the world; and finally support their personal, school-wide and broader community actions so that they can put their envisioned solutions into practice.
We will observe the process and the product of learning as well as how the students and teachers experience the use of our toolbox of climate resources in their classrooms. The following specific research questions will be addressed in the empirical study:
We will use both qualitative and quantitative data to address these questions such as interview, pre and post tests, video recording and online discourse analysis.
Our team consists of laboratory and field scientists, educators, media programmers and pedagogy experts. We work together to produce outreach tools that take advantage of state of the art science and web media, and then to test the effectiveness of these tools in promoting student understanding of, communication about and actions to address climate change and ocean acidification.