Teaching climate literacy in the schools
March 25, 2018


Whereas, the leading scientific bodies both nationally and internationally agree that the earth’s climate is changing and that humanity’s release of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere is the greatest contributor to that change; and

Whereas, the effects of climate change are already being experienced throughout the world, and noticeably in California, with an increase in average temperatures, wildfires, and sea levels, stressing water supplies and local ecosystems; and

Whereas, some 89 percent of Californians view climate change as a serious threat to our environment and economy, and the state is responding with regulation, legislation, and a continued commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement in spite of federal action; and

Whereas, at a time when the science of global warming has prompted governments around the world to begin redefining our economies and to call for an end to the fossil fuel era, it is time for school and college districts to redefine what it means to educate students for a future of certain climate change.  Climate literacy is essential for the success of California’s students, both as members of their communities and citizens of the world; and

Whereas, K-12 and college students in California do not currently have consistent access to adequately funded, high-quality learning experiences, in and out of the classroom, that build environmental literacy; and

Whereas, given the multigenerational effects of climate change, it is crucial that all California students understand the causes and consequences of climate disruption as well as the various evolving strategies to mitigate its effects; and

Whereas, California’s growing commitment to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) education offers an unparalleled opportunity for preparing and equipping students to study climate disruption and to respond to it through energy efficient and zero-carbon building practices, local renewable energy generation, and similar methods; and

Whereas, those disciplines and occupations involved in studying and responding to climate disruption,  including energy efficient and zero carbon building practices and local renewable energy generation are all in industries that are represented by unions, and that the construction, operation, and maintenance of those systems should function in a manner that creates good quality jobs; and

Whereas, the CFT has endorsed a mission statement affirming that “[a]s a historical force for progressive change and social justice, the labor movement can, and must, play a powerful role in calling for swift action to address the climate crisis” and calling upon us to “[e]ducate our members and the community about the pressing environmental issues of our day and possible solutions to the present crisis;”

Therefore, be it resolved that the California Federation of Teachers support local education and other unions in encouraging local school and college boards to promote climate science, along with its social, economic, and environmental consequences, ensuring that all high school and community college students are climate literate. Such information should be included as part of the literacy, math, and critical thinking requirements in mandated core curricula and tests.

Be it further resolved, that the CFT collaborate with local education and other unions, environmental allies, and local school and college boards to develop a comprehensive climate literacy program that includes new curriculum and materials based upon scientifically backed data, professional development and training for educators, and links to environmental organizations and inclusive community groups; and

Be it further resolved, that the CFT in collaboration with students, teachers, and community members advocate for an implementation plan so that there are curriculum and educational opportunities that address climate change and climate justice in all of California’s public schools and colleges; and Be it further resolved, that CFT advocates for an implementation plan that should include a review of textbooks for accuracy regarding the severity of the climate crisis and the impact of human activities. California public schools and colleges should abandon the use of any adopted text material that is found to express doubt about the severity of the climate crisis or its root in human activities; and

Be it further resolved, that the CFT participate in every way possible in the “2018 Science Adoption Events Approved by the California State Board of Education on March 9, 2017. Revised September 21, 2017” to ensure the new standards related to human impact on the environment, the planet, and climate change are fully included in any materials being considered for adoption by the California State Board of Education; and

Be it finally resolved, that the CFT advocate for high-quality training for all teachers of science so they are well prepared to teach the Next Generation Science Standards, including an emphasis on the standards related to human impact on the environment, the planet, and climate change.