ABSTRACT In this article, we show what insights can be gained by considering the relationship between expert and non-expert texts about scientific topics through the lens of ‘translation’. We focus specifically on the metaphors used to discuss climate change in a range of educational materials and in interviews with secondary school students in the UK. We show the complex web of relationships among the people and genres that may influence students’ understandings of climate change, and focus on the role of teachers in particular as ‘translators’ of scientific knowledge. We then report on several comparisons of metaphor use among texts and genres that stand in source–target relationships within this web of intralingual translations, and also consider the metaphors used by students themselves to express their understanding of climate change. We conclude by reflecting on the implications of the differences we have observed, and suggest that a translation perspective can usefully highlight the challenges and potential pitfalls involved in mediating scientific knowledge for the benefit of non-experts such as school-age students.