Study: Need for Increased Climate Education for Climate Literate Workers

A study of graduate students in the United States finds that students in agriculture and life sciences reported a lack of knowledge in climate science in their undergraduate studies. The study also notes that those in degree programs related to human dimensions of natural resources management (geography and resource economics) generally felt that their undergraduate curricula provided them with adequate exposure to climate science, and students of all disciplinary backgrounds indicated that they received poor exposure to numerical modeling of historical and future climatic conditions.

“The effects of climate change – many of which are yet to be realized and understood – will shape the careers of people working in all employment sectors, but those working in natural resources management will be on the front lines,” notes Natalie Nelson, lead author of the paper. “Recognizing that today’s students will face grave challenges posed by climate change, we were curious to learn whether graduates of programs related to natural resources management felt they had been exposed to climate education during their undergraduate programs.”

The authors were interested in identifying areas in their curricula that could be adapted or altogether changed to improve undergraduates’ climate literacy, and to get a sense for students’ perceptions of climate education in their programs.

Findings from this study underline key areas in which curricular or course improvements are needed to ensure that future decision-makers are confident in their practical use of climate science.

“Given that agricultural systems and infrastructure will be at risk of impacts from climate change in the future, our results signal that academics managing undergraduate programs, particularly in engineering and agricultural sciences, should strive to incorporate more climate education in their curricula,” adds Nelson.

The paper, “Undergraduate Perceptions of Climate Education Exposure in Natural Resources Management” is published in Transactions of the ASABE by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. The paper was co-authored by Lise Montefiore, a graduate student in BAE; Cord Anthony, a former undergraduate research assistant; Laura Merriman, previous faculty in BAE; Emma Kuster, program coordinator in the South Central Climate Adaptation Science Center; and Garey Fox, BAE department head.