Embodying climate change: How to cope with public confusion on global warming

Kai Niebert
2015
The scientific consensus on the causes of climate change is in contrast to a widespread confusion among the public: Several studies indicate that not only school students and laypeople but even qualified science graduates face serious problems to explain how the emission and capture of CO2 influence the atmospheric CO2-budget and thus global warming. We use the theoretical framework of embodied cognition to analyse why the principles of climate change are so hard to grasp. Embodied cognition
more » ... bodied cognition states that all of our conceptions base on physical and cultural experience. This experience is used either directly or metaphorically in understanding a phenomenon. Our analyses show that the atmospheric CO2-budget is interpreted with image schemata like containers, flows and balances. Each of these single schemata are embodied and shaped in early childhood. But to understand climate change these schemata are combined to a stock-and flow schema which is complex and unintuitive. Based on our findings we developed external representations of the atmospheric CO2-budget that address the students' confusion by two strategies: Whether we afforded an experience or we assisted the reflection on the stock-and flow schema by representing its image-schematic structure. We probed these external representations in teaching experiments with high-school and university students and discuss how embodied cognition can inform the development of external representations on stock-and flow relationships
doi:10.5167/uzh-119370 fatcat:ww2f2qpr4zg47fpc2xkxhagls4