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Climate change education in China: a pioneering case of its implementation in tertiary education and its effects on students’ beliefs and attitudes

Kuok Ho Daniel Tang (Department of Environmental Science, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 9 December 2022




In view of a lack of evidence on the effectiveness of climate change education (CCE) in China, this study aims to evaluate if a CCE course newly designed based on research recommendations and implemented with established pedagogy was effective in changing the beliefs and attitudes of first-year science students.


This study took a simple longitudinal approach with surveys administered at the beginning and the end of the course and the differences in the responses analyzed with nonparametric statistical analyses.


The results showed that the course produced significant changes in the beliefs concerning the anthropogenic causes of climate change and vulnerability to its impacts, which results in inequality of the impacts received. However, the course did not produce significant attitudinal changes among the students. Spearman’s correlation, which affirmed the belief–attitude association, revealed that the students already had desirable attitudes toward climate change and these attitudes had not been reinforced. The students’ perception of the importance of local government in climate action increased by the end of the course. Multimedia-aid learning, debates and discussions were useful in conveying the concepts of responsibility, ethics and vulnerability, but the addition of student-led community projects will increase personal significance of the course.

Research limitations/implications

This study is instrumental for the development of a regional model of CCE in the mainstreaming of education for sustainable development in China, knowing that the regional approach is crucial to address the nuances in climate change knowledge, hence conceptions and beliefs across regions and, even, between different sectors of a region. This regional experience could also serve as a reference for other similar settings, particularly those of the developing countries.


This study presents one of the very few studies dedicated to gauging the effects of CCE in China, particularly of a newly developed climate change course, on the beliefs and attitudes of students. This permits pedagogical development and continuous improvement of CCE in China.



The author would like to acknowledge all the participants of the study who had taken the time and effort to complete the surveys. The author also thanks BNU-HKBU United International College for providing the ground for the study.

Declaration of interest: None.


Tang, K.H.D. (2022), "Climate change education in China: a pioneering case of its implementation in tertiary education and its effects on students’ beliefs and attitudes", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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