The SUNY Journal of the Scholarship of Engagement: JoSE

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This article explores university students’ knowledge and concern level towards climate change, as well as potential roles they see themselves playing as teachers in a world increasingly affected by its impacts. A survey of 135 university students was conducted at SUNY Cortland, a medium-size state university in Upstate New York. Results show that these university students (among them pre-service teachers) are highly concerned about the potential impacts of climate change, especially for future generations. While they demonstrate some accurate knowledge of climate change, many hold many misconceptions about its causes and consequences. In articulating how they can or do respond to lessening their own impacts, they mostly prioritize what many researchers consider low-impact mitigative actions. Concerning education, our sample of pre-service teachers think climate change education is important and they plan to address it in their classrooms by transferring information to students about climate change. However, their gaps in knowledge raise questions about how accurately they will be transferring this information to students, as well as what crucial pieces of climate change education they will not be able to provide students given their current understanding of the issue. The article concludes with a discussion of the limitations of the current ways higher education institutions incorporate climate change and some suggestions to how they might approach teaching about climate change differently to have a longer lasting impact.