Improving Wikipedia’s coverage of the climate crisis

As the COP26 summit comes to a close, many people are reflecting on what we can do to help solve the climate crisis. For some student editors in Wiki Education’s Wikipedia Student Program, they already have: they’ve helped shape the world’s understanding of climate change and its impacts by sharing scientific information on Wikipedia. While some of the classes working on the topic have focussed specifically on climate change, others have been introductory-level composition classes.

Graduate students in Gunnar Schade’s Texas A&M climate change class took on a host of important topics. The student who re-wrote the Climate change in Texas article was able to flesh it out into an excellent article which addresses both the challenges Texas faces and some of the mitigation approaches. Another, who worked on the Media coverage of climate change article, was able to add information about coverage of recent events like the Trump Administration and the Australian wildfires.

Other students chose to focus on the science of climate change and its impacts. The history of climate change science helps to contextualize what has been done, and can help readers understand the long history of climate science. Greenhouse and icehouse Earth are the two states that the Earth’s climate has fluctuated between. Understanding these two states is important for forecasting future climates, now clearer on Wikipedia thanks to that student editor’s work. The Global temperature recordPolar amplification, and Tropical cyclones and climate change articles highlight the more obvious impacts of climate change; all were improved by student editors. The Climate change and ecosystems article looks at the impact of climate change on the natural systems human life depends on.

Effects of climate change on humans and the related Effects on climate change on human health are helping to connect the impacts of climate change to readers. Finally, the Climate change art looks at climate change in another way, delving into some of the ways we react as humans.

Erin Larson’s Climate Change class at Alaska Pacific University worked on articles related to mechanisms like CO2 fertilization effect, the Methane chimney effect, and the Tree credits article. A Fordham University student in Paul Bartlett’s Environmental Economics class Climate engineering.

Yale University students in Helene Landemore’s Democracy, Science, and Climate Justice class focused on a different set of articles. One student expanded the Public opinion on climate change, adding information about public perceptions of climate change in India to the article. Other students expanded the Carbon tax and Climate change policy in the United States articles.

Matthew Bergman’s Introduction to Policy Analysis class at the University of California at San Diego made important additions to the Economics of climate change mitigation and Climate change policy in California articles adding information about a series of bills passed in the state. Other students contributed to the Greenhouse gas emissions by the United States, the United States withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and the San Diego Climate Action Plan.

Students from the University of California at Merced in Michelle Tonconis’ Extinction Events and Stewardship class also worked on the Effects of climate change on humans article; as humans, this topic is close to home for all of us.

While classes like these, which had a science or policy related to climate change are likely to contribute a lot to the topic, it’s an issue that almost everyone is aware of, and many classes with a more general focus were also able to make good contributions.

A University of Massachusetts Boston student in Brittany Peterson’s Composition 102 class, for example, was able to improve the Climate change in the United States article, while a College of DuPage student editor in Timothy Henningsen’s Research, Writing, and the Production of Knowledge class was able to improve the Effects of climate change article.

One of the participants in Joseph A. Ross’s Freshman Seminar at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro worked on the Individual action on climate change article.

All told, students from a wide range of backgrounds chose to work on articles related to climate change, demonstrating the fact that especially for younger people, climate change has a huge impacts on their lives and their futures. By improving the information available to the public, student editors can help people understand the topic, and cut through a lot of the misinformation that continues to persist in the space.

If you’re a university instructor wondering what you can do about the climate crisis, join these instructors! Ask your students to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of climate change topics. Visit to get started.

Image credit: Insure Our Future, PDM-owner, via Wikimedia Commons


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