Climate Change Education: Cross-cultural perspectives

Guest Editors

Junqing Zhai (Zhejiang University), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Vaille Dawson (University of Western Australia), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Justin Dillon (University College London), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Issue rationale

Climate change is arguably the most urgent and serious issue facing our world. Virtually every government is now taking action at national, regional and local levels. Cross-national organisations such as the United Nations have set goals for action (Wals et al., 2014). For example, UN Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13, which is: “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”, has a target which states: “Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning” (SDSN, 2015). Such a target goes beyond increasing knowledge and recognises that action is needed at personal and public levels and that without government intervention and support, the required changes will not happen in time.

Dillon and Herman (in press) note that “Anthropomorphic climate change […] is, perhaps, a unique issue whereby public opinion differs quite markedly from country to country depending on a whole range of political and cultural factors.” It is these factors that this special issue aims to address. For example, we know from surveys that in Spain, 69% of respondents believed that “the climate is changing and human activity is mainly responsible”, whereas the figure in the US was 38% (YouGov, 2019). Even from this limited evidence base, it seems clear that climate change education, and the teaching approaches required, need to vary depending on the local context.

A number of studies have reported on local educational initiatives (Lundholm, 2019). Examples include monitoring whether classroom lights are turned off, setting up “eco clubs” and encouraging students to travel to school on foot or on bicycle. Other studies have described community level action (Birmingham & Barton, 2014; Kenis & Mathijs, 2021; Trott, 2019a; Valdez et al., 2018). For some authors, climate change education is fundamentally an issue of social justice (Howell & Allen, 2019; Kagawa & Selby, 2009). As a result, there has been an increase in studies taking cross-curricular approaches (Hawkey et al., 2019; Rousell & Cutter-McKenzie-Knowles, 2020; Schreiner et al., 2005).

The issue of what should be taught as well as how it should be taught has been addressed by authors in Singapore, Bulgaria, Turkey and Canada (Chang & Pascua, 2017; Erdogan et al., 2009; Wynes and Nicholas, 2017). Whereas, at high school level, some authors argue for a focus on systemic change, others, such as Chawla and Cushing (2007, p. 438) argue that “small-scale actions at the level of the classroom, the school yard and the local environment” are most appropriate in the primary school years.

We know that children’s learning in school can impact on the behaviours of parents and other adults (Lawson et al., 2019; Ojala, 2012; Sanson et al., 2018; Trott, 2019a/b). Research into teacher opinions about climate change education has been carried out in the US by NPR/IPSOS (2019) and in the UK by YouGov (2019) for the charity Oxfam and the UK School Climate Network (UKSCN).

Finally, a relatively recent review by Monroe et al. (2017) looked at “what works” in climate change education. Two key general themes identified were: (1) focusing on personally relevant and meaningful information and, (2) using active and engaging teaching methods. Four themes specific to climate change education were: (1) engaging in deliberative discussions; (2) interacting with scientists; (3) addressing misconceptions; and, (4) implementing school or community projects.

The Special Issue is an invitation to deepen our understanding of climate change education drawing on cross-cultural perspectives. We welcome theoretical, historical, and empirical research in relation to the theme of this Special Issue. Offered below are some prompts for opening discussions about the topic including but not limited to:

- Cross-cultural perspectives on understanding and addressing climate change scepticism;

- Incorporating Indigenous perspectives into climate change education;

- The role of international agencies in climate change education;

- International collaborations between schools/universities focusing on climate change;

- Methodological issues in researching cross-cultural aspects of climate change education.


Potential authors submit an abstract (300-500 words, in English) by October 30, 2022, to Guest Editor This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please put “ECNU Review of Education” in the subject line. The abstract should include an overview of the proposed paper which may be theoretical or empirical (i.e., objective, method/perspectives, findings/main arguments, and implications). Paper and forum invitations will be sent to possible paper contributors by November 30, 2022. Submission of full papers at by April 1, 2023. Guest editors will send reviewers’ comments to authors by July 1, 2023. Authors will submit final manuscripts by September 30, 2023.

The Guest Editors

Junqing Zhai, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the College of Education, Zhejiang University, China. His research interests include science learning in informal outdoor settings, teachers' practice in inquiry-based science classrooms, and nature pedagogy for developing children’s connectedness to nature.

Vaille Dawson, Ph.D., is Professor of Science Education in the Graduate School of Education, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia. Her research expertise spans climate change education, scientific literacy, teacher education, critical thinking, and teaching in disadvantaged schools in India, Indonesia and India. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, an Honorary Senior Research Associate at University College, London and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Justin Dillon, Ph.D., is Professor of Science and Environmental Education in the Department of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment, University College London, U.K. and Guest Professor at Zhejiang University, China. Justin was President of the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) from 2007-11 and is President of the UK National Association for Environmental Education. He edits the journal, Studies in Science Education, and is an editor of the International Journal of Science Education.


Birmingham, D., & Barton, A. C. (2014). Putting on a green carnival: Youth taking educated action on socioscientific issues. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 51(3), 286–314.

Chang, C. H., & Pascua, L. (2017). The curriculum of climate change education: A case for Singapore. The Journal of Environmental Education, 48(3), 172–181.

Chawla, L., & Cushing, D. (2007). Education for strategic environmental behaviour. Environmental Education Research, 13(4), 437–452.

Dillon, J., & Herman, B. (2022, in press). Environmental education. In N. Lederman, D. Zeidler, & J. Lederman (Eds). Handbook of Research on Science Education (3rd edition). Routledge.

Erdogan, M., Kostova, Z., & Marcinkowski, T. (2009). Components of environmental literacy in elementary science education curriculum in Bulgaria and Turkey. Eurasia, 5(1), 15¬–26. 10.12973/ejmste/75253

Hawkey, K., James, J., & Tidmarsh, C. (2019). Using wicked problems to foster interdisciplinary practice among UK trainee teachers. Journal of Education for Teaching, 45(4), 446–460.

Howell, R. A., & Allen, S. (2019). Significant life experiences, motivations and values of climate change educators. Environmental Education Research, 25(6), 813–831.

Kagawa, F., & Selby, D. (2009). Education and climate change: Living and learning in interesting times. Routledge.

Kenis, A., & Mathijs, E. (2012). Beyond individual behaviour change: the role of power, knowledge and strategy in tackling climate change. Environmental Education Research, 18(1), 45–65.

Lawson, D. F., Stevenson, K. T., Peterson, M. N., Carrier, S. J., L. Strnad, R., & Seekamp, E. (2019). Children can foster climate change concern among their parents. Nature Climate Change, 9(6), 458–462.

Lundholm, C. (2019). Where to look and what to do? Blank and bright spots in research on environmental and climate change education. Environmental Education Research, 25(10), 1427–1437.

Monroe, M. C., Plate, R. R., Oxarart, A., Bowers, A., & Chaves, W. A. (2017). Identifying effective climate change education strategies: a systematic review of the research. Environmental Education Research, 25(6), 791–812.

NPR/IPSOS. (2019). Teachers agree that climate change is real and should be taught in schools.

Ojala, M. (2012). Regulating worry, promoting hope: How do children, adolescents, and young adults cope with climate change? International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 7, 537–561.

Rousell, D., & Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, A. (2020). A systematic review of climate change education: giving children and young people a ‘voice’ and a ‘hand’ in redressing climate change. Children’s Geographies, 18(2), 191–208.

Sanson, A. V., Burke, S. E. L., & Van Hoorn, J. (2018). Climate change: Implications for parents and parenting. Parenting-Science and Practice, 18(3), 200­–217.

Schreiner, C., Henriksen, E. K., & Kirkeby Hansen, P. J. (2005). Climate education: Empowering today's youth to meet tomorrow's challenges. Studies in Science Education, 41(1), 3–49.

Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). (2015). Indicators and a monitoring framework for the sustainable development goals - Launching a data revolution for the SDGs.

Trott, C. D. (2019a). Children's constructive climate change engagement: Empowering awareness, agency, and action. Environmental Education Research, 23.

Trott, C. D. (2019b). Reshaping our world: Collaborating with children for community-based climate change action. Action Research, 17(1), 42–62.

Valdez, R. X., Peterson, M. N., & Stevenson, K. T. (2018). How communication with teachers, family and friends contributes to predicting climate change behaviour among adolescents. Environmental Conservation, 45(2), 183–191.

Wals, A. E. J, Brody, M., Dillon, J., & Stevenson, R. B. (2014). Convergence between science and environmental education. Science, 344, 583–584.

Wynes, S., & Nicholas, K. A. (2017). The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions. Environmental Research Letters, 12(7), 074024.

YouGov. (2019). YouGov - International Climate Change Survey.

*ECNU Review of Education is an open access, peer-reviewed, journal where East China Normal University and East China Normal University Press pay for the publishing costs incurred by the journal. There is no charge for submitting a paper to the journal. Authors do not have to pay any Article Processing Charge or Open Access Publication Fee. Each article accepted by peer review is made freely available online immediately upon publication, is published under a Creative Commons license and will be hosted online in perpetuity.

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