By Sebastien Malo
NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Teenagers in the U.S. coastal state of North Carolina who were schooled in the basics of man-made climate change saw their parents grow more concerned about the issue, scientists said on Monday in the first study of its kind.
The results suggested nationwide protests by young people urging action to tackle global warming could influence the views of adults at home, researchers told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Danielle Lawson, lead author of the study published by the journal Nature Climate Change and a researcher at North Carolina State University, said the findings could “empower” ongoing efforts by students, such as the “Fridays for Future” marches.
That movement has seen school children around the world walk out of classes on Fridays, including in the United States, in protest at government inaction on climate change.
In the study, parents whose middle school-age children followed a curriculum that included learning about climate change increased their own level of concern by nearly 23 percent on average, the researchers found.
For conservative parents, the rise was significantly higher, averaging 28 percent.
The two-year experiment, involving about 240 students and nearly 300 parents, was the first to demonstrate that climate change education for children promotes parental concern, a North Carolina State University statement said.
But the results could only be generalized to North Carolina coastal counties, where the experiment took place, said Lawson.
In the research, teachers gave some students lessons on climate change, including classroom activities like mapping data and field trips to places experiencing degradation linked to global warming.
Another group did not follow that curriculum.
Parents of both groups shared their level of preoccupation about global warming in surveys administered before and after the experiment.
Brett Levy, an assistant professor of education at the New York-based University at Albany who was not involved in the study, said the results potentially spoke to dynamics at play as students skipped school to demand climate action.
“Sometimes people who participate in protests learn about the issues involved,” he said. “This study suggests that young people involved in these climate demonstrations could influence the views of their parents.”
Currently, 37 of 50 U.S. states, plus Washington D.C., have adopted science education guidelines that include learning about climate change as a result of human activity, said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education.
Thirteen states do not mention climate change as man-made, describe it only as a possibility, or misrepresent the scientific consensus about the phenomenon, he added.
(Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers climate change, humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)