Assessing Student Climate Literacy

The following assessment is based off of a series of knowledge questions from nation-wide assessments of climate science, as well as attitude/engagement questions based off of a shortened version of the Yale Project on Climate Change Six Americas survey of public engagement. 

Google forms link to survey. 

Knowledge Questions:

  1. What is causing global warming?

    1. The sun moving closer to the Earth.

    2. Melting glaciers.

    3. The added or extra greenhouse effect due to increased concentration of heat-trapping gases from human activities that prevent solar radiation from leaving the Earth’s atmosphere.

    4. The increase in Nitrogen and Oxygen as a percentage of the total gases in Earth's atmosphere.

  2. The difference between weather and climate is:

    1. Weather is what we expect based on years of data while climate is what is happening right now

    2. Weather is predictable but climate is not

    3. Weather is a day-to-day event while climate is a consistent pattern over many years

  3. What is the current CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, in parts per million (ppm)?

    1. 280 ppm

    2. 350 ppm

    3. 400 ppm

    4. 500 ppm

  4. Do we need to increase, decrease, or maintain (keep the same) the current CO2 concentration to stabilize the Earth’s climate?

    1. Increase

    2. Decrease

    3. Maintain

  5. What causes CO2 emissions to rise?

    1. Burning fossil fuels

    2. Cutting down trees

    3. Tilling the soil (common agricultural practice)

    4. Landfills

    5. All of the above

  6. What are three ways we can lower CO2 emissions? (Open response)

  7. Over the past 50 years, CO2 in the air has increased which has led to:

    1. Higher average global temperature

    2. Lower average global temperature

    3. No change in average global temperature

  8. What is another greenhouse gas besides CO2?

    1. Methane (CH4)

    2. Water Vapor

    3. Nitrous Oxide (N20)

    4. All of the above

  9. Which of the following is a natural process that removes carbon from the atmosphere?

    1. The water cycle

    2. Humans breathing

    3. Trees dying

    4. Plants (via photosynthesis)

  10. Scientists and policy-makers have agreed at the Paris Conference (COP 21) to try and limit global average temperature rise to less than ___ degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

    1. 1C (1.8F)

    2. 2C (3.6F)

    3. 4C (7.2F)

    4. 10C (18F)

  11. Name one thing your community could realistically do to adapt or mitigate climate changes. How and why would your plan work? (Open response)


*The first 4 questions are from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communications (YPCCC) new shortened 4-question survey for the American public to determine their level of concern and engagement with the issue of climate change. You can take the survey online here for an analysis of your results and where you fit in the “Six Americas” spectrum:  

**Note about clarifying the difference between global warming and climate change: While the two terms are often used interchangeably by the public, Paul Hawken distinguishes between the two in his recent book Drawdown as follows: “Global warming refers to the surface temperature on the earth. Climate change refers to the many changes that will occur with increases in temperature and greenhouse gases.”

  1. How important is the issue of global warming to you personally?

    1. Extremely important

    2. Very important

    3. Somewhat important

    4. Not too important

    5. Not at all important

  2. How worried are you about global warming?

    1. Very worried

    2. Somewhat worried

    3. Not very worried

    4. Not at all worried

  3. How much do you think global warming will harm you personally?

    1. A great deal

    2. A moderate amount

    3. Only a little

    4. Not at all

    5. Don't know

  4. How much do you think global warming will harm future generations of people?

    1. A great deal

    2. A moderate amount

    3. Only a little

    4. Not at all

    5. Don't know

  5. Do you think climate change will be solved by humans living today?

    1. Yes

    2. Maybe

    3. No

    4. Not sure

  6. How many times in the past year have you looked up additional information on climate change that you did not learn in school?

    1. Never

    2. Once or twice

    3. Monthly

    4. Weekly

    5. Every day

  7. How often in the past year have you talked to friends/family members about climate change?

    1. Never

    2. Once or twice

    3. Monthly

    4. Weekly

    5. Every day