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College Biology Textbooks Make Little Mention of Climate Change, Study Shows

A study of U.S. college biology textbooks revealed they contained little information about climate change, and that textbooks published in the 2010s contained even less information than those published the decade before.

Researchers examined 57 introductory biology textbooks published between from 1970 and 2019, finding that the average number of sentences on climate change rose from 10 before 1990 to 52 in the 2000s. In the last decade that figure dropped to 45, despite a greater scientific understanding of the impacts of climate change.

“We were shocked that textbook passages addressing climate change remained so short, even in recent decades,” the study’s authors said in a statement. They added that “the minimal content about climate change reflects how little the topic has been valued.”

Publishers also devoted fewer words to climate solutions in the 2010s and moved climate change closer to the ends of textbooks. “This is important because most instructors present textbook content in order, which means topics at the end of the book are often skipped,” said Jennifer Landin, a biologist at North Carolina State University and coauthor of the study. The findings were published in the journal PLOS One.

Said Landin, “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.”

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