Study: Educating Children on Climate Change Teaches Parents Too
With the School Strike for Climate movement inspired by Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, young people have taken the lead on climate activism. Now, a first-of-its-kind study suggests that this could be a winning strategy to get more adults involved, too.
Researchers at North Carolina State University (NC State) found that teenagers educated about climate change saw their parents' concern about the issue jump almost 23 percentage points on average, Reuters reported.
Fridays for future. The school strike continues! #climatestrike #klimatstrejk #FridaysForFuture https://t.co/5jej011Qtp— Greta Thunberg (@Greta Thunberg)1537116920.0
"There's a robust body of work showing that kids can influence their parents' behavior and positions on environmental and social issues, but this is the first experimental study demonstrating that climate education for children promotes parental concern about climate change," NC State Ph.D student and lead study author Danielle Lawson said in an NC State press release.
Lawson told Reuters that the study, published in Nature Climate Change Monday, could "empower" the youth climate movement. University at Albany Assistant Education Professor Brett Levy, who was not involved with the study, agreed that it pointed to the potential impact of the youth protests.
"Sometimes people who participate in protests learn about the issues involved," he told Reuters. "This study suggests that young people involved in these climate demonstrations could influence the views of their parents."
NC State explained the design of the experiment, which was conducted over a two-year period:
For the study, researchers worked with middle school science teachers to incorporate a climate change curriculum into their classrooms. Prior to teaching the curriculum, researchers had 238 students and 292 parents take a survey to measure their levels of concern regarding climate change.
Seventy-two of the students and 93 of the parents were in a control group, meaning the students did not receive the climate change curriculum; 166 students and 199 parents were in an experimental group, meaning the students did receive the climate curriculum. All students and parents took the survey again after the students in the experimental group had completed the climate curriculum.
Students and parents in both groups saw their concern about climate change increase over the course of the experiment, but for the control group, students saw their concern increase 0.72 points and parents 1.37 points. For the experimental group, children's concern increased 2.78 points and their parents' 3.89 points.
The effect was especially notable in conservative parents in the experimental group, who saw their concern jump an average 28 percent, according to Reuters. By the end of the study, there was no significant difference between the amount of concern expressed by liberal or conservative parents.
This is promising, George Mason University climate communication researcher John Cook told The Los Angeles Times, because conservatives tend to be less concerned with climate change and harder to educate about the subject, since views on the issue are so closely linked to group identity, including political affiliation.
"If you change your mind on something where all of your tribe believes the same thing, you risk social alienation," Cook, who was not involved in the study, said. But he said the study suggested adults felt less threatened when their children raised the issue.
Lawson told The Los Angeles Times this was likely because children do not speak about climate change from an ideological perspective, and because there is a unique trust between parents and children.
"This study tells us that we can educate children about climate change and they're willing to learn, which is exciting because studies find that many adults are resistant to climate education, because it runs counter to their personal identities," she told NC State. "It also highlights that children share that information with their parents, particularly if they're given tools to facilitate communication – and that parents are willing to listen."
However, Lawson cautioned Reuters that the study results could only be generalized to North Carolina coastal communities.
Thirty-seven U.S. states plus Washington D.C. have science education guidelines that teach students about human-caused climate change, National Center for Science Education Deputy Director Glenn Branch told Reuters. In 13 states, the subject is either not included or taught with misinformation, he said.
Study co-author and NC State Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management Assistant Professor Kathryn Stevenson said the research was not about pushing a political agenda.
"This is about education, not activism, and children are great educators. They seem to help people critically consider ways in which being concerned about climate change may be in line with their values," Stevenson said.
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By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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