“In short, we found that biology textbooks do not share enough information about climate change, which is a generation-defining topic in the life sciences,” says By Jennifer Land, the study’s lead author and assistant professor of biological sciences at NC State. “These books are foundational texts that help students understand the science of life on Earth, yet they provide very little information about a phenomenon that has profound effects on habitats, ecosystems, agriculture—almost every aspect of life on Earth.”
For the study, the researchers analyzed the coverage of climate change in 57 college biology textbooks published between 1970 and 2019. The researchers found that climate coverage has varied considerably over these five decades.
Before 1990, the median of textbooks was less than 10 sentences about climate change. In the 1990s, the median length of climate content was 30 sentences. The median length of climate content increased to 52 sentences in the 2000s, which is not surprising given the amount of research on climate change and its effects. However, the researchers found that the amount of climate coverage in textbooks actually decreased in the 2010s — falling to a median of 45 sentences.
In addition to the length, the nature of the content has changed substantially over time. For example, sentences dedicated to effective solutions to climate change peaked in the 1990s in more than 15 percent of climate content. However, the solutions that have been implemented in recent decades are only about 3 percent of the climate content.
“One of the most troubling findings was that textbooks devote significantly less space to addressing climate solutions today than they did in the 1990s—even though they focus more on the impacts of climate change,” says Landin. “It suggests to students that nothing can be done, which is both wildly misleading and adds to the sense of fatalism about climate change.”
In addition, the position of climate change sections is moving further back in the books, from the last 15% of the text in the 1970s to the last 2.5% of the text in the 2010s.
“This is important because most teachers present the textbook content in order, which means topics at the end of the book are often skipped,” says Landin.
“It’s not all bad news, though,” Landin adds. “Textbooks in the 2000s and 2010s began to include more extensive climate-related information, such as the effect of climate on species distribution, which can help students understand the various impacts of climate change.
“However, we hope this study serves as a wake-up call to publishers and instructors. We need to do a much better job of incorporating climate change into our courses if we want to prepare students to understand the role climate change plays in shaping life on Earth and how we study it.”
Source: The Nordic Page