Should schools teach climate change? This bill would make it mandatory.

January 29, 2020 Scott Enman
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BOROUGHWIDE — A new bill from a local pol whose district was devastated by Superstorm Sandy would require that all New York public elementary and high schools teach climate change in the classroom.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes’ legislation would make the Commissioner of Education create a model climate change curriculum that would be incorporated into science, social studies, history and health classes. The syllabus would also include environmental justice.

“The fact that the biggest existential threat of our time is not a standardized part of our public school curriculum is a glaring hole in our education system,” Gounardes said. “If we are to understand the nature of this complex threat and address it at every level, today’s students must understand the problem.

“For too long, the public conversation about climate change has been distorted by fossil fuel companies and politicians with an interest in maintaining the status quo. It is now imperative for students to understand the science, the history, the politics and health implications of this global emergency.

More than 80 percent of parents in the United States support the teaching of climate change, according to a joint poll by NPR and Ipsos. Sixty-eight percent believe that climate change and its impacts on our environment, economy and society should be taught, while 16 percent said the fact that it exists should be taught — but not its potential impacts.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes. Photo: NY Senate Media Services

The study also found that two-thirds of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats agree that children in the classroom should be exposed to the topic.

A separate report revealed that 86 percent of teachers are supportive of teaching it.

With hurricanes, floods and wildfires growing stronger by the day, Gounardes — who represents Bay Ridge, Bath Beach, Gerritsen Beach and Manhattan Beach — argued the time is now for students to understand and learn how to reduce the effects of climate change.

“Those of us who represent waterfront districts know from firsthand experience just how vulnerable we are to superstorms like Sandy and natural disasters worsened by climate change,” he said.

“The next generation of future leaders must have the tools to understand and tackle climate change and the effects that are only forecast to worsen. Education is the key to change.”

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