Biology Textbooks Fall Short on Climate Change

By analyzing 57 biology textbooks published over the past 50 years, Rabiya Ansari and I found that climate change content is, well, rather understated. Our paper appears in PLOS ONE.

The main takeaways are:
1) the average amount of content in the 2010s is just 67 sentences (about 3 pages in a 1000+ page textbook), and
2) on average, just 2 of those sentences address solutions to climate change, and
3) the climate change content is way way way at the back of the textbook.

In the 2010s, some books had just 22 sentences; the largest passage was only 107 sentences. When you think about the massive impacts of climate change on our society, extinction rates, and ecosystem shifts, the coverage is far too small. And most of these sentences focus on the effects of climate change. That’s important for understanding the effects of climate change on life on earth. But, with the loss of solutions, it makes the problem seem hopeless. There are many simple things each of us can do to reduce our carbon footprint (I’ll be teaching a class this summer that addresses these solutions).

Most importantly, relegating a few pages addressing climate change to the back of the book does our students a disservice for their future careers. Climate change and environmental jobs must increase in the near future. Let’s make sure our future scientists, business leaders, farmers, economists, writers, humanitarian organizers, and politicians are ready.


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