Curriculum Perspectives

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 79–82 | Cite as

Queensland teachers and climate change education

Point and Counterpoint


Climate change presents significant challenges to current and future generations. How is formal schooling helping to meet this challenge? The Australian Curriculum, including the Cross Curriculum Priority of Sustainability, may provide space for teachers to engage with the complexities of climate change in their classrooms but does not, in most cases, encourage teachers to engage with climate change as a complex, multi-dimensional issue and relies instead on teachers’ own initiative. A doctoral research study explored Queensland teachers’ understandings of climate change and climate change education and how these understandings, along with other factors identified by teachers, influence their engagement with climate change education. The data reported here were collected from over 300 surveys and 21 interviews with in service teachers. The results suggest that despite the apparent priority teachers place on climate change education, few feel they are adequately supported to include climate change in their classes in any meaningful way. As a result, many do not include the issue in a formal capacity but rather rely on incidental conversations and discussions. From this study it appears that Queensland’s formal schooling sector is inadequately preparing Queensland students for an uncertain future shaped by rapid climate change.


Teacher beliefs Climate change curriculum Australian curriculum 


  1. Anderson, A. (2010). Combating climate change through quality education. Retrieved 10 August 2016 from
  2. Bureau of Meteorology. (2016). Special Climate Statement 56—Australia’s warmest autumn on record. Issued 1 June 2016. Retrieved 13 October 2016 from
  3. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) & Bureau of Meteorology. (2014). State of the climate—Report. Retrieved 10 January 2017 from
  4. Gough, A. (1997). Education and the Environment: Policy, Trends and the Problems of Marginalisation. Melbourne, Australian Council for Educational Research.Google Scholar
  5. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (2014). Climate Change 2014–Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: Regional Aspects: Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Jensen, B. B., & Schnack, K. (2006). The action competence approach in environmental education: Reprinted from Environmental Education Research(1997) 3(2):163–178. Environmental Education Research, 12(3–4), 471–486. doi: 10.1080/13504620600943053.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Lewandowsky, S., Cook, J., & Lloyd, E. (2016). The ‘Alice in wonderland’ mechanics of the rejection of (climate)science: Simulating cohereance by conspiracism. Synthese 1–22. doi: 10.1007/s11229-016-1198-6.
  8. Mower, T. (2012). Climate change in the curriculum: Are all young people informed and inspired? Earth & Environment, 8(1), 1–37.Google Scholar
  9. Nicholls, J., & Thorne, M. (October, 2016). Queensland teachers relationship with the sustainability cross curriculum priority. Adelaide: Paper presentation at Australian Association for Environmental Education Conference.Google Scholar
  10. Oversby, J. (2015). Teachers’ learning about climate change education. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 167, 23–27. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.12.637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Plutzer, E., McCaffrey, M., Hannah, A. L., Rosenau, J., Berbeco, M., Reid, A. H. (2016). Climate confusion among U.S. teachers. Science, 351(6274), 664–665.Google Scholar
  12. Polesel, J., Rice, S., & Dulfer, N. (2014). The impact of high-stakes testing on curriculum and pedagogy: A teacher perspective from Australia. Journal of Education Policy, 29(5), 640–657. doi: 10.1080/02680939.2013.865082.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Shepardson, D. P., Niyogi, D., Roychoudhury, A., & Hirsch, A. (2011). Conceptualizing climate change in the context of a climate system: Implications for climate and environmental education. Environmental Education Research, 18(3), 323–352. doi: 10.1080/13504622.2011.622839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Stevenson, R. B. (2007). Schooling and environmental/sustainability education: From discourses of policy and practice to discourses of professional learning. Environmental Education Research, 13(2), 265–285. doi: 10.1080/13504620701295650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2010). The UNESCO Climate Change Initiative. In: T. Mermer (Ed.) Climate change education for sustainable development. Retrieved 13 October 2016 from
  16. van der Linden, S. (2015). The conspiracy-effect: Exposure to conspiracy theories (about global warming) decreases pro-social behavior and science acceptance. Personality and Individual Differences, 87, 171–173. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2015.07.045.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Wise, S. B. (2010). Climate change in the classroom: Patterns, motivations, and barriers to instruction among Colorado science teachers. Journal of Geoscience Education, 58(5), 297–309.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Australian Curriculum Studies Association 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Research and Innovation in Sustainability Education (cRISE) and College of Arts, Society and EducationJames Cook UniversityQueenslandAustralia

Personalised recommendations