High School Science Textbooks from Canada Largely Fail to Mention High Impact Climate Change Action


High School Science Textbooks from Canada Largely Fail to Mention High Impact Climate Change Action

I realize this article titled “The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions” by Seth Wynes And Kimberly A Nicholas is a couple of years old now but I believe it was a very poignant article. You can read the abstract below, along with watch a 3 minute video from the author via the link above, and download the full article from the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere (MAHB) website here. If you are not familiar with the MAHB spend some time on their website too. I love working at intersections and that is what they are all about. They work to inspire a dialogue on how interconnected biogeophysical and socio-economic systems contribute to the existential threats facing humanity and develop strategies for shifting human cultures towards practices that promote a future in which people can live peaceful and productive lives. 

However, back to my original reason for posting this blog post, the Wynes article….

I was not part of EEPro at the time this article came out so perhaps it was discussed previously or in another EEPro group but I would be interested in hearing from others about what they think of this article, the challenges associated with discussing these solutions and ideas for integrating these topics into the classroom, if they are not getting into textbooks.

If you are a follower of community-based social marketing you know behavior selection is one of the main components when creating a behavior change campaign and that includes calculating the impact, probability and penetration of an action. This article clearly identifies these as high impact solutions, but what about probability and penetration? Is it such that these solutions are so difficult they could never get traction with the public? And if so, how can we overcome that?


Current anthropogenic climate change is the result of greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere, which records the aggregation of billions of individual decisions. Here we consider a broad range of individual lifestyle choices and calculate their potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries, based on 148 scenarios from 39 sources. We recommend four widely applicable high-impact (i.e. low emissions) actions with the potential to contribute to systemic change and substantially reduce annual personal emissions: having one fewer child (an average for developed countries of 58.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent (tCO2e) emission reductions per year), living car-free (2.4 tCO2e saved per year), avoiding airplane travel (1.6 tCO2e saved per roundtrip transatlantic flight) and eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tCO2e saved per year). These actions have much greater potential to reduce emissions than commonly promoted strategies like comprehensive recycling (four times less effective than a plant-based diet) or changing household lightbulbs (eight times less). Though adolescents poised to establish lifelong patterns are an important target group for promoting high-impact actions, we find that ten high school science textbooks from Canada largely fail to mention these actions (they account for 4% of their recommended actions), instead focusing on incremental changes with much smaller potential emissions reductions. Government resources on climate change from the EU, USA, Canada, and Australia also focus recommendations on lower-impact actions. We conclude that there are opportunities to improve existing educational and communication structures to promote the most effective emission-reduction strategies and close this mitigation gap.