According to a recent survey, 30 percent of U.S. middle and high school teachers teach students that climate change is “likely due to natural causes.” The study published on Feb. 11 by researchers from Penn State, Wright State University and the National Center for Science Education polled 1,500 teachers from a wide range of science disciplines.
The teachers’ position that climate change occurs naturally contradicts widely accepted scientific assessment, reports The Washington Post. Of the teachers polled, 31 percent also said they present both theories that climate change is human-caused and a natural occurrence.
“We think any amount of legitimization of nonscientific perspectives sends a message to students that this may be a matter of opinion and values, and not one that can be adjudicated by evidence,” said Penn State researcher Eric Plutzer.
Plutzer, who was a lead researcher on the study, noted that some teachers are avoiding the topic of climate change altogether.
“The percentage of teachers giving mixed messages is somewhat less, but we also have a substantial number of teachers who are not covering the topic at all,” said Plutzer.
The study also revealed that U.S. middle school and high school students receive on average one to two hours of instruction on climate change per year, reports Science Alert.
Teachers were shown to be chronically uninformed on the topic of climate change, according to the study. Three out of five teachers in the survey were not aware of the nearly universal scientific consensus on the human impact factor in climate change.
The inconsistent practices of U.S. teachers in teaching climate change is reflective of the American people at large.
According to the study published in Science, “Most of the general public accepts that climate change is occurring, only about half of U.S. adults believe that human activity is the predominant cause, which is the lowest among 20 nations polled in 2014.”
Josh Rosenau, another lead researcher in the study, emphasized the critical role of teachers in educating students about climate science.
“Teachers didn’t create the polarized culture war around climate change, but they’re the key to ending this battle,” Rosenau said.