Integrating the social sciences to enhance climate literacy

Rachael Shwom, Cindy Isenhour, Rebecca C. Jordan, Aaron M. McCright, Jennifer Meta Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The climate literacy movement aspires to help members of the general public understand the global climate system, locate and assess scientifically credible climatic information, communicate about climate change in an educated and objective manner, and make informed and responsible decisions in response to climate-change impacts. When these goals are not met, society will likely be further imperiled by the effects of a changing climate. Climate literacy programs have traditionally promoted education on the biophysical science of the climate system but have largely failed to integrate relevant knowledge from the social sciences. We argue that understanding human behavior and the social drivers of climate change are essential for the public to fully appreciate the climate system, and that this knowledge can inform decision making related to climate-change mitigation and adaptation. Teaching students to evaluate different forms of evidence will also improve climate literacy and lead them to ask how scientists know what they know. Finally, we suggest two new social science principles that could advance interdisciplinary climate literacy goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-384
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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