US textbooks contain even less information about the climate crisis than they did 10 years ago, researchers say.
For the North Carolina State University study, researchers analysed coverage of climate change in 57 college biology textbooks published between 1970 and 2019.
The researchers found that climate coverage has varied substantially over those five decades.
Professor Jennifer Landin, one of the study authors, said: “In short, we found biology textbooks are failing to share adequate information about climate change, which is a generation-defining topic in the life sciences.
“These books are the baseline texts for helping students understand the science of life on Earth, yet they are providing very little information about a phenomenon that is having a profound impact on habitats, ecosystems, agriculture – almost every aspect of life on Earth.”
Before 1990, textbooks had a median of fewer than 10 sentences addressing the climate crisis and in the decade that followed it grew to 30 and then 52 in the 2000s.
However, the researchers found that the amount of climate coverage in textbooks actually declined in the 2010s – dropping to 45.
“One of the most troubling findings was that textbooks are devoting substantially less space to addressing climate solutions now than they did in the 1990s – even as they focus more on the effects of climate change,” Landin says.
“That suggests to students that nothing can be done, which is both wildly misleading and contributes to a sense of fatalism regarding climate change.”
However, Landin says it’s not all bad news because textbooks in the 2000s and 2010s began including a wider variety of climate-relevant information, such as how climate is affecting species distributions, which can help students understand the various impacts of climate change.
“We are hoping that this study will serve as a wake-up call for publishers and instructors,” she adds.
“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 that climate change is playing in shaping life on Earth and how we study it.”