Stanford University

Middle and high school students’ conceptions of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies

BY Laura Bofferding and Matthew Kloser
ClockJanuary 01, 2015

Both scientists and policy-makers emphasize the importance of education for influencing pro-environmental behavior and minimizing the effects of climate change on biological and physical systems. Education has the potential to impact students’ system knowledge – their understanding of the variables that affect the climate system – and action knowledge – their understanding of behaviors that can impact the system. Research on climate change education has largely focused on system and action knowledge that address mitigation while overlooking equally necessary adaptive responses. This study used a pre/post-test format to identify aspects of middle and high school students’ climate system knowledge and action knowledge of both mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. Results indicate that adolescents currently conflate climate change mitigation strategies with unrelated environmental problems far less than in previous surveys. However, students demonstrated limited understanding of adaptive responses to climate change. After engaging in an instructional unit on climate change, students expressed stronger system and action knowledge, but significant misconceptions remained that conflated mitigation of and adaptation to climate change.

Environmental Education Research, 2015

Vol. 21, No. 2, 275–294,

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