Climate change has garnered a lot of attention over the years and continues to be debated. But the need to increase awareness of the issue among college students may still be an area of concern.
Whether it be through the media or during a lecture, there are different ways a college student could gain knowledge on climate change and its local effects. But one may not have all the proper knowledge about how climate change impacts his or her home.
Mark Conder, science and operations officer at the National Weather Service in Lubbock, said the awareness of climate change among college students varies.
“Overall, they are probably fairly aware of at least the general impacts,” he said. “But most of them aren’t too in tuned with the specifics.”
Regarding the effects of climate change, Conder said people must know that there are hardly any immediate impacts or occurrences that result from the issue.
“When people talk about the effects, we’re really talking about these long-term influences on the weather conditions,” he said. “So, it’s not something on a day-to-day basis.”
Correlating a single weather event to climate change is one misconception Conder said some people have, as they do not know that the consequences of climate change are more long-term.
For those in the West Texas area, Conder said some long-term effects of climate change can include gradually warming temperatures that can lead to hot days and warming nights, higher frequency and severity of heatwaves and droughts and more moisture in the air that leads to more heavy-rain events.
Some of these trends, such as the heavy rainfall and heatwaves, along with the rising sea levels also can be seen on a global scale, Conder said.
“On a global scale, you’re also concerned about maybe shifting patterns where some areas dry out and some areas get wetter,” he said.
Regardless of the consequences that can arise from climate change, awareness of these trends is another aspect of climate change education that may fluctuate.
“I definitely think it’s getting better or people are getting more aware of the topic,” Conder said. “I think, in general, the media does a pretty good job at introducing the basics of climate change.”
In addition to more people being aware of the issues of climate change, Conder said some people have misconceptions, such as climate change resulting in immediate effects, and there are a lot of debates about what is causing these long-term effects.
Through the media, college students may gain a variety of information about climate change and develop opinions on the issue.
Nan Li, assistant professor in the Texas Tech Agricultural Education and Communications department, said climate change being presented in the media is nothing new.
“If you look at media coverage in the past two decades, it definitely experienced a lot of changes,” she said. “What research has found is that the media is always trying to put different opinions side-to-side. Even though there is a dominant scientific consensus on the happening of climate change, the media always wants to quote the other side as well.”
Because of this method of presenting information, Li said a lot of challenges and questions arise among the general public.
“I think right now, you don’t see that many debates on the media,” she said. “But still, you see this giant difference between parties and outlets.”
The presentation of climate change issues is getting more complex, Li said. When learning about climate change effects through the media, she said the general public typically forms their opinions based on observations, as it is difficult for climate experts to explain climate change effects based on the predictions they made.
Despite how one gains information about climate change, Li said the media could also be a tool to encourage people, whether they be college students or not, to take part in alleviating the issues of climate change.
“One of the strategies that people are trying to do is use moral appeals, especially when it comes to recycling and things like that,” she said. “People are trying to develop this type of message that will resonate with people.”
Regarding awareness of climate change, a student’s initial knowledge about the issue could impact their willingness to help alleviate the problems that result from climate change.
Cristina Bradatan, chair of the Tech Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work and member of the Tech Climate Center, said some students do not realize that they can make a difference in alleviating certain issues of climate change.
“All of us actually use the resources, and that affects the environment one way or the other,” she said. “Recycling; that’s a simple thing.”
Saving water and being energy efficient are other small tasks Bradatan said people can do to make difference. When a lot of people accomplish these tasks, she said a positive impact is made.
Along with the negative consequences of climate change, the impact one can make in the fight against climate change is another idea Bradatan said some college students are not knowledgeable about, as there is not much education about these topics.
“Generally speaking, we are way behind in terms of educating kids and students about climate change,” she said. “The U.S. is such a large country with so many states, there are differences between states.”
Texas is one state Bradatan said is really behind in climate change education. To help college students be more educated about climate change and more aware of the issues around them, she said institutions should change the way they teach certain topics.
“One of the things that we do in college, and we do it badly, is that we put so much emphasis on dry academic things, when we should actually reach out to students through other ways,” she said. “How can we transmit the same message but making students more interested rather than just convincing them through rational arguments?”