At the United Nations’ 2021 Climate Change Conference (COP26), Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D-San Fernando Valley), Assemblymember Lisa Calderon (D-Whittier), Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) learned that the world is surpassing California on climate change education. To reaffirm California’s global leadership on climate policy, the Assemblymembers, along with principal co-author Senator Dave Cortese (D-Silicon Valley) and co-authors Assemblymembers Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), and Isaac Bryan (D-Baldwin Hills), have come together to introduce policy that would integrate climate change into our education system.
“Climate change is no longer a future problem waiting for us to act upon – it is already here,” said Assemblywoman Luz Rivas. “Extreme climate events are wreaking havoc across the globe and escalating in severity each year. Millennials and Generation Z have already mobilized as key leaders in climate and environmental activism because they know their generations will have to live with the consequences of a changed climate. At the United Nations’ climate conference, we learned that several countries are preparing their youth for the new climate realities affecting the planet by educating them on climate change. This legislation will cultivate a new generation of climate policy leaders in California as we educate, help prepare, and give our next generation the tools to shape their futures in the wake of our current climate crisis.”
For decades, California has pioneered innovative climate and environmental policies to lower emissions and reel in the state’s carbon footprint. At COP26, California sent a delegation so that the state could share its policy experiences, while also taking away best practices on climate resiliency strategies from other nations. California is committed to maintaining its climate leadership on a global level, and that begins by educating students on climate change to empower them to serve as future leaders and activists.
“As a delegate to the 2021 United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Glasgow, it is undeniable that climate change is upon us, and the question now is not how to stop it, but how to mitigate its impact,” said joint author Assemblymember Lisa Calderon. “This task falls upon California and its children. Environmental literacy must be taught in our schools so that our children can be prepared for the future. Today, we will introduce legislation requiring the subject of climate change to be part of the K-12 science curriculum in California.”
Educated students can inspire adults towards greater levels of climate awareness. A 2019 study by Nature Climate Change found that teaching children about climate change in schools also significantly increased their parents’ concern over the issue. Students carry great power in uplifting climate change discussions at home. Additionally, a National Public Radio poll found that 80% of parents in the U.S. supported the teaching of climate change, and 86% of teachers believe climate change should be taught at schools.
“Instructing our children about the risks of the ongoing climate crisis is essential to mitigating and reversing its dangerous consequences,” said joint author Assemblymember Chris Ward. “I am proud to be a joint-author for AB 1926, ensuring future generations of Californians not only have the knowledge and tools needed to understand this existential threat but are positioned to lead the global fight against climate change.”
Italy and New Zealand have taken the lead on the world stage by requiring every grade in its public school system to study climate change. Additionally, New Jersey is leading the charge on climate change education in the United States, as they are the first state in the country to require schools to teach their students about climate change. For California to maintain its leadership on climate and environmental policy, we must educate our future generations on how to create a sustainable future.
“Climate change literacy is a critical outcome of K–12 education for our California students,” said principal co-author Senator Dave Cortese, who created the Silicon Valley Kids Climate Club to teach students grade 3-12 about environmental stewardship through learning activities, tips, and contests. “Climate change will be a defining feature of our students’ world, whatever career path they may take. This bill will provide all students access to climate change education and empower them to tackle the environmental issues they will surely be faced with in the future. Education is key to addressing climate change while also helping young people understand that they have the power to make a positive difference in their world.”