Teachers Can’t Let Students Think That Climate Change is Up for Debate


By Andrew Pillow

Schools are places where kids are supposed to explore ideas. Teachers don’t have to agree with all the ideas, but it’s important to expose children to them anyway and allow them to draw their own conclusions.

However, not all ideas are created equal, and some are not based in reality and thus not worthy of exploring. Ideas such as:

  • Eugenics
  • Phrenology
  • Young earth
  • Flat earth

It’s time to add the anti-climate change theories to that list.

While I recognize that climate change has become a polarizing partisan issue in the last few years, it is NOT a polarizing science issue. Science has made the discussion very clear. Climate change is real, it’s here and it's man-made. Anything stating the contrary is simply not backed up by scientific consensus.

This post isn’t going to be about proving climate change is real. Continuing to re-hash that debate only gives credence to anti-science opposition. Instead this post will focus on why it’s important to keep the climate change “debate” out of schools.

1.       There is no debate.

If there was a legitimate scientific consensus to dispute climate change then it would make sense to expose kids to the other side. But 97% of scientists agree man made climate change is a problem. That kind of consensus should be respected.

2.       It will affect them more than us.

Climate change isn’t something that will come and go or be fixed overnight. Our elder generations caused it. My generation brought awareness to it. The next generation is going to have to be the one to fix it. If they aren’t, it may be too late for the generation that follows them. Run-away climate change is a real threat and if this year’s hurricane season is any indication, the consequences of inaction are dire.  

3.       It’s better to get them while they are young.

It matters when you learn things. We often want kids to be more skeptical of things but one of the pros of not being skeptical is being openminded. Too many adults learned about climate change from Al Gore after he lost an election. This along with oil companies has politicized the issue beyond reach to some older people, but climate change should be apolitical. And if we teach climate change in school as a scientific fact as opposed to “that weird phenomena that guy who lost to Bush was talking about," it will pay dividends in the future.  

It’s tempting to play devil's advocate and tell children that climate change is “just a theory," but remember those category 5 hurricanes off the gulf of Mexico don’t care rather you believe in climate change or not.  


Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.