Claim: Climate Change is Being Downgraded in University Textbooks

Essay by Eric Worrall

There is evidence university science teachers might be deliberately skipping over climate indoctrination.

Climate-change content shrinks in US university textbooks

Sections on climate change have gotten shorter and moved farther back in biology textbooks since the 2000s.

McKenzie Prillaman
21 December 2022

University biology textbooks published in the United States in the 2010s contained less climate-change content than did those in the 2000s, despite the increasing urgency of the climate crisis1.

The researchers assessed 57 textbooks published between 1970 and 2019. They counted the sentences in the books’ climate-change passages — identified by phrases such as ‘global warming’ and ‘greenhouse gas’ — and found that the median number of sentences per passage rose until the 2000s (see ‘A textbook change’). It peaked in that decade at 52, but then dropped to 45 in the 2010s. (The authors deemed the median a better value to use than the average because of the wide range in passage length.)

Furthermore, the median position of sections about climate change moved from the last 15% of pages in the 1970s — when many scientists first became convinced that the planet was warming — to the last 2.5% in the 2010s. Controversial topics are usually placed at the end, Landin says, because “it allows teachers to ‘run out of time’ and then not have to teach them”.

Topics within the climate-change passages also shifted. Since the 1990s, the proportion of sentences devoted to solutions has dwindled, whereas content on the effects of climate change, including extreme weather and worsening diseases, has grown. Landin praises this more holistic portrayal of the impacts. But with the simultaneous decrease in solutions, she says, the balance of content skews towards hopelessness.

Read more:

The abstract of the study;

Coverage of climate change in introductory biology textbooks, 1970–2019

Rabiya Arif Ansari ,Jennifer M. Landin  
Published: December 21, 2022

Climate change is a potent threat to human society, biodiversity, and ecosystem stability. Yet a 2021 Gallup poll found that only 43% of Americans see climate change as a serious threat over their lifetimes. In this study, we analyze college biology textbook coverage of climate change from 1970 to 2019. We focus on four aspects for content analysis: 1) the amount of coverage, determined by counting the number of sentences within the climate change passage, 2) the start location of the passage in the book, 3) the categorization of sentences as addressing a description of the greenhouse effect, impacts of global warming, or actions to ameliorate climate change, and 4) the presentation of data in figures. We analyzed 57 textbooks. Our findings show that coverage of climate change has continually increased, although the greatest increase occurred during the 1990s despite the growing threats of climate change. The position of the climate change passage moved further back in the book, from the last 15% to the last 2.5% of pages. Over time, coverage shifted from a description of the greenhouse effect to focus mostly on effects of climate change; the most addressed impact was shifting ecosystems. Sentences dedicated to actionable solutions to climate change peaked in the 1990s at over 15% of the passage, then decreased in recent decades to 3%. Data figures present only global temperatures and CO2 levels prior to the year 2000, then include photographic evidence and changes to species distributions after 2000. We hope this study will alert curriculum designers and instructors to consider implicit messages communicated in climate change lessons.

Read more:

The study authors also accuse science teachers of being climate deniers, or being “confused” about climate change;

Science teachers exhibit denial of, or confusion about, climate change. Plutzer et al. extensively studied teachers’ classroom methods and educational backgrounds pertaining to climate change [12]. They found that, while most teachers cover the topic, 31% report sending explicitly contradictory messages in effort of teaching “both sides.” Almost one-third of the teachers emphasized that recent global warming is “likely due to natural causes,” and 12% do not emphasize human causes at all. Fewer than half of teachers reported formal education in climate change in college.

The sequence of chapters can play a critical role in how, or if, content is addressed in the classroom. Controversial topics of reproduction, evolution, and conservation were placed at the rear of biology textbooks in the 1930s, beginning a tradition of book organization still observed today [16]. Instructors usually progress through a textbook from one chapter to the next and, in studies examining teachers’ use of textbooks, chapters at the end of the books are frequently skipped [1718].

Read more: Same link as above

Here’s a possibility. Maybe textbooks are pushing climate indoctrination to the end, and downgrading content, because science teachers are forcing the market, by seeking out and buying textbooks which make it easier for them to avoid having to indoctrinate their students.

This kind of thing gives me hope. If I am right, if researchers are angry about climate propaganda but are keeping it to themselves, all it will take is a spark, a push too far, like significantly increasing the amount of climate content on exams, and climate activists could have an open academic rebellion on their hands.

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michael hart
December 22, 2022 10:06 am

It shouldn’t be in a basic biology book at all.

Don Perry
Reply to  michael hart
December 22, 2022 10:55 am

I think it should be there as a perfect example of pseudoscience based on a political agenda. A perfect example of what President Eisenhower warned us in his farewell address, the danger of mixing science and the furtherance of public policy.

Scarecrow Repair
Reply to  Don Perry
December 22, 2022 12:35 pm

What’s that got to do with biology?

Why not include musings on supply and demand too?

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Scarecrow Repair
December 22, 2022 1:15 pm

A little variety never hurts – the kids are probably bored with the usual bio fraud references to Lysenko and Piltdown Man.

Mark Whitney
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
December 23, 2022 6:32 am

They can dispense with Lysenko now that the more recent example of Fauciism almost makes Trofim look reasonable.

Last edited 3 months ago by Mark Whitney
Joao Martins
Reply to  Don Perry
December 22, 2022 1:45 pm

I agree, but mainly for another reason, two examples: to debunk the idiocies of changing the vegetation by planting forest trees “more adapted” to “higher” temperature; or to domonstrate the usefulness of changing the objectives of breeding agricultural plants by selecting plants for higher growing temperature.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Joao Martins
December 22, 2022 5:11 pm

“planting forest trees “more adapted” to “higher” temperature”

Doing that really is dumb for many reasons including:

  • planting trees is expensive
  • planting trees often fails
  • you never really know which species should be planted
  • with smart forestry you can depend on the forest to seed in naturally
Reply to  Don Perry
December 22, 2022 3:51 pm

Imaging the furor if they (correctly) introduced it as the Climate Change Fraud. It could go in with a bunch of other scientific frauds, like Piltdown Man and Cold Fusion.

Reply to  michael hart
December 22, 2022 2:08 pm

Its relation to biology is that climate cycles make endangered species. Only those chance mutations which can survive in the new climate continue to reproduce. Preserving endangered species is Mother Nature’s job, not ours.

michael hart
Reply to  Old.George
December 22, 2022 2:46 pm

That could be better taught in ecology, genetics, zoology, and probably several other disciplines.

Reply to  Old.George
December 22, 2022 3:52 pm

“…Only those chance mutations which can survive in the new climate continue to reproduce.”
We have tropical Parakeets that have thrived and spread across London. London is not tropical in spite of assertions by some bird ‘experts’ that the parrots thrive because of climate change. They were imported and it would appear they have ample food and shelter, meaning that have climate is irrelevant for invasive species and therefore irrelevant for native also. There are some birds in the UK that used to migrate in winter that now winter over because people feed them.

Reply to  sskinner
December 23, 2022 12:09 am

We have them up north too

People feed them

December 22, 2022 10:07 am

I love it .
put it in the textbooks and the curriculum and the teachers and students dont necessarily study it in depth.

Bill Powers
December 22, 2022 10:12 am

Could this be a sign that the propagandists are winning and that a voting age consensus has been achieved? They no longer need preach fire and brimstone with reckless abandon as a majority have been assimilated.

Gunga Din
December 22, 2022 10:17 am

Maybe there are more than 97% of science teachers out there that just want to teach actual science?

Tom Halla
December 22, 2022 10:31 am

What does climate change have to do with biology?

Gunga Din
Reply to  Tom Halla
December 22, 2022 10:45 am

Man’s CO2 has infiltrated the XX and XY chromosomes of humans.
Lots of evil has been the result.
(Or maybe those those with a political agenda have rallied around CAGW as a means to achieve their own goals?)

December 22, 2022 10:33 am

The people purchasing these textbooks are not the new teachers. They are the department heads, in their late 40s upwards. They are the first generation to be taught Climate Change when they were at school.

30 years ago, the Precautionary Principle was deployed to warn of catastrophe. It didn’t happen. And those who were so keen on the content of those textbooks 30 years ago that they actually became biology teachers… They know it.

Climate Change is now seen to less important than it was feared it might be.
If you are teaching a curriculum for the future, you don’t emphasis Climate Change. 
The pupils are the future. Dangerous Climate Change is not.

Steve Case
December 22, 2022 10:39 am

Teachers with a B.S. are more likely than their peers with a B.A. to seriously question the validity of Climate Change orthodoxy. Science encourages analysis of data. Climate Change doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny.

As time goes by the “The cure is worse than the disease” as it relates to the Climate Crisis becomes more and more apparent, and media bombardment of Climate Change propaganda can no longer be ignored for what it is.

Knowing that a topic is controversial encourages teachers to present both sides of an issue or not teach it at all.

Reply to  Steve Case
December 22, 2022 11:34 am

Intuitively, your distinction between teachers with BA and BS degrees teachers makes sense but where are your numbers?

Steve Case
Reply to  JC
December 22, 2022 11:49 am

“… where are you numbers?”

Numbers? I ain’ got no numbers,

Reply to  Steve Case
December 22, 2022 12:12 pm

Be careful about disparaging educational credentials when you don’t need to.

Reply to  JC
December 22, 2022 2:57 pm

Keep up JC.

Classic math is now raaaacist!

(100s of teachers unions all over the western world can’t be wrong, shirley.)

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Steve Case
December 22, 2022 1:42 pm

Not only is the “cure” worse than the “disease,” the “disease” as postulated does not even exist, and the “cure” would do nothing about the “disease” EVEN IF the disease WAS real.

Reply to  AGW is Not Science
December 24, 2022 10:27 am

Now THAT really sounds familiar, but in relation to the Covid flu and it’s so-called vaccines! Sort of like, ‘Does ANY of it really exist?’

Rud Istvan
December 22, 2022 10:39 am

Maybe the reason there is less and less is that all the old negative climate change impact on biology alarms were just wrong.

  1. Polar bears are fine.
  2. Pikas are fine.
  3. Adelie penguins are fine.
  4. GBR corals are fine.
  5. Negative tropical fish impacts turn out to be academic misconduct.
  6. Negative oyster hatchery impact turns out to be academic misconduct.
  7. Planet is greening thanks to more CO2 for C3 plants.

It gets harder and harder to maintain false science alarms in the face of reality.

John Hultquist
Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 22, 2022 11:43 am

I first learned of Pikas as a high mountain critter.
Now I live at just over 2,000 feet — and so do the Pikas.
University students found them using the “fill” part of “cut & fill”
along I-90 in Washington State. This is east of Snoqualmie Pass
where a “critter crossing” was built. 2nd one now underway.
Search: I-90 critter crossing

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 22, 2022 11:52 am

And just maybe, as those in the north of the U.S are about to be reminded, enough people have realized that warmer is better.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Tom in Florida
December 22, 2022 5:15 pm

right- the weather has been relatively mild here in Massachusetts the past few months – and I see nobody complaining about it

Steve Case
Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 22, 2022 11:53 am

It gets harder and harder to maintain false science alarms in the face of reality.

They really aren’t slowing down any. The teacher study is a small sample of the whole.

Last edited 3 months ago by Steve Case
December 22, 2022 10:44 am

These are college texts. What’s the situation with high school texts? Students in introductory college biology courses have already been exposed to years of AGW hysteria. They may not need anymore fabulist indoctrination.

December 22, 2022 10:45 am

I hope this is more than just a coincidence but at some point people have to realize all the alarmism is exactly that and nothing more.

December 22, 2022 10:48 am

I wonder what “Bill Nye the Barely Qualified to be a High School Science Teacher Guy” thinks about this?

Matthew Bergin
Reply to  renbutler
December 22, 2022 2:21 pm

Who cares

December 22, 2022 11:03 am

The big climate propaganda push that followed the public announcement of the extent of shale gas is 2008 may triggered a hesitancy to do the climate threat echo chamber thing in class by 2010. Hard narrative enforcement didn’t take hold until 2020.

Reply to  JC
December 22, 2022 11:04 am

It must be a nightmare to teach science now. Any science teachers out there?

Reply to  JC
December 22, 2022 3:00 pm

The iconic science teachers’ lectures are still readily available on the interweb, e.g Richard Feynman.

No need to reinvent the you-know-what.

Last edited 3 months ago by Mr.
December 22, 2022 11:03 am

If it is true it is a hopeful sign of progress.

Because of political correctness people are afraid to risk their teaching career by saying that they don’t think global warming is real. But they can see with their own eyes that year after year goes by and that nothing is changing. Right now where I live in Chicago it is snowing and the weather forecast is for below zero F temperatures in the next few days. That is just what it has always been at this time of year just before Christmas. So where is the global warming?

The problem with global warming is that like a spoiled carton of milk it has an expiration date. Time passes and nothing happens. People stop believing when nothing happens.

December 22, 2022 11:10 am

Now the tables are turning. Temperature trends are declining. They have to brush up their greuel propaganda from the 1970s about an impending new ice age!

December 22, 2022 11:26 am

Nuclear annihilation alarmism ( real threat, duck and covers) triggered existential anxiety in kids Cuban missile crisis 1962 and 6 years later a massive peace, anti-draft and anti-nuke movement that led to the burning and bombing of many collage and university buildings with the national guard on many campuses.

Climate Alarmism (urban myth level threat) triggers Eco-anxiety in kids. Maybe intuitively teachers are implicitly keeping a lid on it.

Reply to  JC
December 22, 2022 11:48 am

My guess is if this study indicates progress against alarmism, that progress is already fading fast.

Gen-z mobilize eco anxiety into activism.

I am old guy with two Gen Z kids. Both are bright kids doing well in good schools seeking Arts degrees and have no anxiety about climate. They were home schooled and given excellent rhetoric and debating skills by Linguist Mom, an Theologian Dad, which is a far better inoculation against consensus claims by scientists than any science education would have given them. They chose to go to small private schools to side step the GEN Z crazy that is out there right now. The Gen Z crazy has to impact on how teachers teach.

December 22, 2022 11:50 am

Probably because gender has sucked up all the oxygen in the room. Biology teachers can now push their progressive ideology with a subject that actually relates to biology.

Reply to  JimmyV1965
December 22, 2022 11:58 am

Interesting point. Gender is not an existential threat like Climate Alarmism. And that could go both ways. Easier to talk about Gender than future global destruction. But it tends to get all balled up into one narrative enforced movement.

Reply to  JC
December 23, 2022 12:16 am

Gender is not an existential threat like Climate Alarmism. And that could go both ways. 

Pun intended?

More Soylent Green!
December 22, 2022 11:57 am

I am as ever frustrated by the continuing use of the word “denier” for anyone who doesn’t follow the progressive concensus. It cheapens holocaust denialism.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  More Soylent Green!
December 22, 2022 1:55 pm

And suggests, in the case of the “climate” bullshit, that there is something real to BE “denied,” when they have zero evidence to support their claims.

December 22, 2022 12:38 pm

“number of sentences per passage rose until the 2000s (see ‘A textbook change’). It peaked in that decade at 52, but then dropped to 45 in the 2010s.

So a drop of 7 sentences in approximately 10 years. At this rate climate realism will prevail in about the year 2080. Based on WUWT postings, which predominately show climate alarmism prevailing, that feels about right.

Reply to  PMHinSC
December 23, 2022 12:16 am


December 22, 2022 12:41 pm

Contrary to what we might believe, children are not as dumb as some imagine they are. They should be seen and not heard, but only because they haven’t the life experience to formulate cohesive arguments. I know many adults who should be seen and not heard.

We were all kids once and survived to become adults sceptical of climate science (if not covid and Ukraine, subjects for another time) so why do we imagine kids today won’t later rebel against what they are indoctrinated with now?

The big questions are Kipling’s Six Honest Serving Men: “What and Why and When And How and Where and Who.”

Science in a nutshell basically, which few of us recognised until we were long gone from school and began to apply those questions to our daily life and work and, vitally, recognised their significance.

Whilst I’m as sceptical about this study as I am of many other ‘humanities’ studies, if it’s accurate, could the subject of climate change be impinged by other ‘compelling’ social issues like racism, LGBTQ or ‘antifascism’ etc.

Most of we old fogeys have lived our adult lives witnessing the gradual growth of the climate change narrative and are, by and large (at least on this blog) entirely consumed by it.

Children on the other hand, are slapped in the face from almost day one of their education with the complete climate bible they are expected to digest – the normal response being “OK, bored now, move on”. So the ‘educators’ moved on to racism, then LGBTQ, and are now running out of ammunition.

What kids are conditioned to recognise is dramatic, exaggerated, shifts in climate activity. They expect to be boiled alive by the time they are 14 years old.

When they are 20 they wonder why they aren’t porridge, and by the time they are 30 they recognise that nothing’s really changing – they were lied to.

Watch the videos of Extinction Rebellion activists being dragged off public roads by irate motorists. Is it folks of our age doing that (apologies to the younger audience here)? Nope, it’s largely men in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s who would rather work than wring their hands over an ethereal concept they can do nothing about.

There’s still a long way to go before climate fanaticism is finally suppressed, but I’m truly of the belief our children will finally put the subject to bed just because they are as bloody minded as we were.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  HotScot
December 23, 2022 4:36 am

Let’s hope so!

December 22, 2022 1:16 pm

Apparently turtles in Texas and iguanas in Florida are the latest species to suffer from climate change. Freezing conditions in Florida mean iguanas lose grip and fall. The turtles are stunned by the cold.

These are the impact of “global warming” as the snow advances into regions that have not experienced snow for millennia.

How is the “global warming” impacting the travel plans in the USA?

AGW is Not Science
December 22, 2022 1:36 pm

The first sentence of the “abstract” is pure propaganda. A “potent threat?!” A fraction of a degree ON AVERAGE, mostly “less cold at night” and “less brutal in extremely cold areas” is a “potent threat?!” Don’t make me laugh!

Warmer climate is BETTER, not worse. COOLING climate is a threat, and if they really believe CO2 warms the climate, they should be clamoring for MORE “emissions,” not less.

December 22, 2022 2:02 pm

CAGW is the biggest hoax of the last 500 years; perhaps the biggest hoax of the 21st century. Our great-grandchildren will wonder how we could have been so naïve and gullible. After all, each data point in climate is a century wide.

t hal
December 22, 2022 3:00 pm

Another possibility is this study is completely irrelevant. It appears they did word searches for particular phrases and locations and reached conclusions about content based on some unverified statistical relationship. Just more noise to add to the charade.

Tom Johnson
December 22, 2022 6:54 pm

This says to me that many science teachers are smarter than journalists.

Jim Karlock
December 23, 2022 3:19 am

A very simple way to honestly present climate change in school:

5000 years ago, there was the Egyptian 1st Unified Kingdom warm period  
4400 years ago, there was the Egyptian old kingdom warm period.
3000 years ago, there was the Minoan Warm period. It was warmer than now WITHOUT fossil fuels.
Then 1000 years later, there was the Roman warm period. It was warmer than now WITHOUT fossil fuels.
Then 1000 years later, there was the Medieval warm period. It was warmer than now WITHOUT fossil fuels.
1000 years later, came our current warm period. 

After classroom discussion of the above. Introduce this:
Why should we conclude that whatever caused those earlier warm periods suddenly quit causing warm periods, only to be replaced by man’s CO2 emission, perfectly in time for the cycle of warmth every 1000 years to stay on schedule. 

Discuss the logic of this conclusion.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Jim Karlock
December 23, 2022 6:27 am

Yes! And maybe also add how civilization flourished during all of the “climate optimum” warm periods, and compare that history with the fear-mongering about the not-as-warm present warm period.

And also discuss the logic of THAT.

Mark BLR
December 23, 2022 4:52 am

(The authors deemed the median a better value to use than the average because of the wide range in passage length.)

A screenshot of Figure 1 from the paper is copied below.

I submit the conjecture that the authors had several sub-conscious … “assumptions” (?) which led them to “deem” the medians rather than the averages to be “better value[s] to use”.

December 23, 2022 9:49 am

No textbook will ever cover this. I borrowed this graphic from Tony Heller. Until someone can explain why CO2 can increase 25% of more and cause no warming at all at many locations across the globe, then 100% of climate studies are suspect. Start with the basics. Why does CO2 cause warming in some locations and not others? Until you can explain that simple question, all these studies are nonsense, and certainly can’t explain this observation.

RSS_TS_channel_TLT_Southern Polar_Land_and_Sea_v03_3.png
December 24, 2022 8:05 am

It would be best if they could adjust the median by the number of book sales. Then you’d have a better understanding of the market, and possibly the impact on learning.

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