Developing a Climate Literacy Framework for Upper Secondary Students

  • Inez Harker-SchuchEmail author
  • Michel Watson
Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)


While changes to our climate become more apparent and prevalent, adequate understanding in the broader public arena of the causes behind this phenomenon continue to be poor and incomplete. Education remains an essential tool for establishing an informed opinion as well as ensuring students are ready to enter society as adults. To this end, this paper explores the development of a climate literacy framework tested at a secondary school in each Australia and Norway. The pedagogy and curriculum are designed to provide a science-based overview of knowledge relating to climate science and climate change in the upper secondary age group. Measuring existing climate literacy at 53.62% (n = 99) we show that, not only are knowledge deficits shared across borders (culture, language, education systems) there are distinct differences in the understanding of domain-specific aspects in climate science. While no difference between the knowledge domains for the domains related to climate science, there were statistically significant differences in those domains related to drivers of natural climate variation and the impacts and consequences associated with climate change. Furthermore, our findings suggest that, while climate change is taught in secondary school in these two countries, very little improvement in understanding regarding the scientific is made during the secondary school period. We argue that too much focus is put on the consequences and impacts of climate change in the secondary classroom and too little effort if made to improve climate literacy in the physical science basis of natural climate variation and the physical causes and mechanisms underlying climate science. Our study supports previous research which shows that the consequences and impacts of climate change should be only taught after the physical science basis of climate change has been learnt. Our findings also support previous research that recommends that climate literacy interventions should begin in early adolescence and traverse the climate science curriculum in the following order: KD1: Earth in the solar system; KD2: Greenhouse Gas molecules; KD3: Albedo; KD4: Earth’s atmosphere before introducing KD5: natural climate variability; KD6: Feedbacks and climate instability; and KD7: Anthropogenic emissions. By teaching climate science in this way, we will ensure our youth are adequately informed about the issue prior to their emergence into society and we may reduce worldview bias and post-fact rhetoric.


Climate literacy Secondary climate education Knowledge domains Climate change curriculum Climate change pedagogy 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fenner School of Environment and SocietyThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Research School of Population HealthThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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