Empowering Future Generations: Enhancing Climate Literacy and Education in the UK
In recognition of today’s theme at COP28 – Youth, Children Education and Skills Day (8 December) – we look at climate education in the UK and some of the resources now available to support climate literacy.
COP28 reminds us that it is vital for the healthy functioning of society that citizens should be able to engage with the messages put forward by the media or politicians. The Royal Meteorological Society believes that every student should leave school with the basic climate literacy to enable this engagement and to make informed decisions about their own opportunities and responsibilities concerning climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Climate literacy should also equip students with the knowledge and skills required for the green jobs of the future. We know that many students want to work in an area where they can do something positive about climate change but don't know how. Encouraged by so many young people leading the way in taking action to keep the climate crisis on the global political and news agenda, we recently produced a series of 12 short videos ("So you want to do something about climate change…") to explore some of the many careers in climate change that they could do with qualifications in STEM subjects.
There have been many calls from young people, scientists, policy makers and others to improve climate literacy, but until recently there didn’t seem to be any well-sampled, representative evidence of current literacy against which to assess changes over time.
So, in 2022, RMetS worked with Ipsos to inaugurate an annual climate literacy survey of school leavers (16 year olds) in the UK. Whilst the first data from 2022 was limited in scope (because of the ongoing impact of the Covid pandemic on schools), two findings that most surprised us were that most young people did recognise that they had been taught about climate change recently in school but, concerningly, that almost none understood the 1.5°C global warming limitation target.
Further, whilst concerning levels of climate or eco anxiety are reported by our young people, there are also a significant number who do not recognise the relevance or significance of global warming to them as individuals or the world as they know it. For both the anxious and the apathetic, it is crucial that we highlight the opportunities for action – whether that’s mitigation or adaptation, and the broad range of careers that will either need to change because of climate change or be created as we look for solutions.
Climate Education Resources
There are a lot of high-quality classroom resources and other teacher support materials covering climate change, sustainability and biodiversity. Unfortunately, there are far more which are inaccurate, propagate misconceptions, are out-of-date or irrelevant to students.
Recognising this, and the lack of capacity for non-expert, time-pressed teachers to be able to distinguish which group a particular resource falls into, we worked together with the National Climate Education Action Plan group to devise a quality control framework which resource developers can use to make sure that new resources are as good as possible.
Major resource providers have also asked us to assess their resources against the framework. For example, all the climate change resources included in the National Education Nature Parks, will carry the RMetS Climate Change Quality Control badge.
More recently, we worked with Education Scotland to produce maths resources which align with Scotland’s Curriculum. These resources were developed in conjunction with Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI) and allow teachers to demonstrate to their students how their maths skills are relevant to their understanding of issues associated with climate change.
The Society is now supporting exam boards and policy makers to make sure that all the opportunities to improve the climate literacy of our young people within the current curricula of the UK, as well as the exam specifications, are used. A key finding of the recent RMetS report was that, through supplying teacher support and assessment resources, very rapid improvements can be made to the climate literacy of English school leavers.
Browse Informal Climate Education Resources
Climate Jargon Buster
To help you decipher all the climate jargon and buzzwords that you will likely hear around COP28, we have compiled a climate glossary, which you can access here.
Climate Briefing Papers
Over the last couple of years, we have commissioned several papers from leading experts on topics that include tipping points, how climate change will affect UK weather extremes and what an ice-free Arctic could mean for European weather. You can find the full collection of climate briefing papers here.
We routinely publish weather and climate content on our enthusiast blog, MetMatters. You can access our latest articles here, which include a piece highlighting the five key issues in discussion at COP28. Keep an eye out for our soon to be published COP28 half-way blog and overall summary.