Consider the following: a pilot study of the effects of an educational television program on viewer perceptions of anthropogenic climate change and ocean acidification

Climate change portends significant harms to humans and biodiversity but public knowledge of relevant scientific information remains limited. As societal changes and investment are essential to addressing anthropogenic climate change, efforts to better promote both civic science literacy and public awareness of climate change impacts are urgently required. Popular scientific television programming provides one avenue for broad climate change communication efforts.

Our pilot study seeks to evaluate the effects viewing a popular scientific television program, “Bill Nye Saves the World: The Earth is a hot mess” on both fact recall and personal perceptions. We surveyed undergraduate students enrolled in non-majors courses at two institutions of higher education, one large selective private university, and one community college with open enrollment before and after viewing this program. The survey contained both open-response questions and Likert-like ordinal responses intended to evaluate both fact recall and beliefs related to climate change.

After viewing the program, student awareness of climate change impacts was improved, especially for topics emphasized by the program such as sea level rise. Student awareness of ocean acidification was extremely low prior to viewing the program, and improved dramatically, with most respondents aware that ocean acidification is already impacting marine life after viewing. Our pilot study suggests that scientific television programs may successfully promote awareness of climate change impacts and increase perceived personal relevance of climate change, but additional data from a larger and demographically broad population is required to test whether this result is more broadly applicable.

Anderson B. M., Herleman K. C., Ebey C. & Haas D., in press. Consider the following: a pilot study of the effects of an educational television program on viewer perceptions of anthropogenic climate change and ocean acidification. Journal of Geoscience Education. Article (subscription required).


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