Acheetah can run 70 miles per hour. Venus and Earth are about the same size. Blobfish don’t have any bones.
These are facts I’ve learned from my 5-year-old in the past several weeks courtesy of the science- and nature-themed television shows he loves: Wild Kratts, Nature Cat, Blaze and the Monster Machines, and Octonauts. He is an erupting volcano of scientific trivia right now, so I was surprised the other day when I mentioned climate change and he said: “What’s that?”
After a few more questions, I discovered that he’s never heard any of his favorite science shows mention climate change or global warming. Which is strange, because according to overwhelming scientific consensus, climate change is one of the most important environmental issues of our time. It affects wildlife, natural resources, weather, and human health, all of which are regularly discussed on kids’ shows. My son can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about red pandas, except for the fact that their very existence is being threatened by the changing climate.
I know better than to trust a 5-year-old’s memory, of course, so I reached out to PBS Kids, Nickelodeon, and Disney Junior to see if there was any truth to his claim. I was told that with the exception of an episode of Disney Junior’s Doc McStuffins called “The Big Storm”—in which stuffed owl Professor Hootsburg says that “as the Earth gets warmer and warmer, big storms get bigger and bigger”—none of the three networks’ shows has ever discussed the causes, mechanisms, or impacts of climate change on our planet. (Kids’ movies don’t seem to fare much better. There is only one climate change–focused movie among Common Sense Media’s list of 47 “Movies That Inspire Kids to Change the World,” but alas, it’s rated PG-13.)