Education is the key to addressing climate change

Climate change is now back in the UK geography curriculum after indications from education chief Michael Gove it would be left out

Adam Dyster is a first year history undergraduate at University College London and a member of the UK Youth Climate Coalition

Climate change is now back in the UK geography curriculum after indications from education chief Michael Gove it would be left out

It’s been introduced in the US curriculum, and threatened to be removed from the parts of the UK’s. It’s an issue that has sparked much debate, and in the UK’s case, outcry from thousands, particularly from young people and schools (to recent success). So why has education sparked such interest and been considered so vital an issue?

Education is vitally important for several, key reasons. It can deliver the scientific facts about the biggest issue facing young people, something that is being felt by millions worldwide. It equips youth with the skills to help combat climate change, and be part of a green recovering, and positive future.

It also encourages young people to be involved as global citizens, and involves and engages them in an issue that’s impacts will be felt most keenly by those now going through the education system.

We have a responsibility to educate, not only bound by international convention, but by moral and ethical duties. Schools must educate young people about the world around them, so that they are informed with facts and key issues.

Education should keep up to date with science and academic thought. Just as the facts and science of stem cell research or alcohol abuse are taught, because of their relevance and strong scientific foundations, so should climate change and sustainability – indeed, even more so, given the magnitude and impact of environmental issues.

Facts not fiction

Such education must be about facts and science, not treated as the political football as it so often is. Such politicisation mires the issue, and means that the urgency and relevancy of climate change education is often lost amidst political point scoring. This should, as with other relevant science-based issues, be an area of consensus, not party political manoeuvring.

Beyond establishing the facts of the issue, education can have be a great force for good, preparing young people to face, and indeed improve, the world after education has long been completed. How can we expect creative solutions and innovation to combat climate and sustainability issues if we don’t educate the next generation about them?

The UK campaign against the removal of climate change from the Geography curriculum is itself proof of the power of education.

Esha Marwaha, at 15-years-old, was able to write so eloquently on the dangers of removing climate change that her petition gained over 30,000 signatures in a matter of weeks. Yet without education, would we get another Esha, or another generation of activists, or even another generation who care about climate change. Without education, those who want or who’re able to combat climate change will surely be in the minority.

New jobs

This is especially relevant with the need for innovation and sustainable development. Currently the green economy is nascent, its burgeoning growth providing employment and a viable alternative to resource hungry industries and economic models.

But positive growth needs new generations who both understand the need for alternative development and have the passion and desire to act.

Education has a key role in showing young people that not only do they have wider responsibilities, but also that they are entitled to involvement in decisions.

Climate change and sustainability are issues that cut across generations, and the decisions that are made today will have impact not upon the generation that makes them, but generations to come.

Education can help give young people the tools to take part in these decisions, allowing them to enter into the debate.

UN agreements

Finally, there is a legal obligation for many countries to educate about climate change. Under Article 6 of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, signatories are obliged to: ‘Promote and facilitate …the development and implementation of educational and public awareness programmes on climate change and its effects’.

This article is clear and direct, and must not be ignored.

However in many respects this legal obligation is a lesser consideration when compared to the moral obligation each generation has to educate the next about climate change.

Education is the most powerful tool and can engage young people in the debate, prepare them for working with the green economy, and give the definitive science and facts about the biggest issue facing young people. To quote H.G. Wells: “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”

33 Responses to “Education is the key to addressing climate change”

  1. OldLb

    It can also be used to indoctrinate and spread untruths.

    I know of one primary school teacher who is adamant. The tsunami was caused by global warming. That’s being taught to kids.

    So how are you going to educate children that the predictions have failed?

    Are you going to teach them basic science that theory, predict, test, fail means the theory is wrong?

    Are you going to teach them that science isn’t consensus.Its not a vote.

    Are you going to teach them that the BBC is biased in favour of GW, because its pension fund is invested that way. So they get the head of comedy to approve breaking the law?

    Nah, you just want to indoctrinate.

  2. JR

    Teaching children about the planet they live on is an important part of any education. The precautionary principle is also an essential life lesson that is not hard to understand.

    This is true regardless of any individual’s personal understanding (or lack thereof) about how scientific consensus should work in relation to public policy, and the meaning of healthy scientific scepticism in relation to climate change, cancer, homeopathy or any other context.

    They can get on to Karl Popper at GCSE.

  3. Cole

    If some thick right wingers or self interested businessmen want to deny the reality of climate change that’s their problem. The rest of us will stick with the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community which says that man made climate change is happening

  4. mememine

    Some day threatening children with CO2 death threats and promising them the greenhouse gas ovens of an exaggerated climate crisis will the crime that it is.

    Only the same lab coats of science that gave us pesticides and pandering politicians and neocon-like fear mongers and lazy copy and paste news editors still cling to this 28 year old “maybe”/”could be”/”might be” climate blame crisis.
    *Science DOES NOT agree climate change is a crisis, they agree it “MIGHT” be a crisis and it’s been 28 years.
    *Find us one single IPCC warning that says a crisis is “imminent” or “eventual” or “unavoidable”.
    *Science can say a comet hit is real but they can’t say their own comet hit of an emergency is as real as a comet hit.
    *What has to happen now for science to end this costly debate to save the planet and simply say a crisis is certain, not just another unsustainable 28 years of “maybe” crisis actually happening?

    When it comes to the ultimate emergency science must be about certainty not “could be” and if “maybe” is good enough to condemn your own children with CO2 death threats……………………………did Bush condemn billions to the greenhouse gas ovens of an exaggerated crisis?

    And get up to date at least:
    *Occupywallstreet now does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by politicians.
    *Science has never agreed it WILL be a crisis, only could be a crisis and it’s been almost three decades.
    *Not one single IPCC warning has ever said any crisis WILL happen, only 28 years of “maybe” a crisis. Prove me wrong.
    *Canada killed Y2Kyoto with a freely elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).
    *Julian Assange is of course a climate change denier.
    *Obama had not mentioned the crisis in two State of the Unions addresses.

  5. mememine

    We have become the new fear mongering neocons because did Bush condemn billions of children with CO2 death threats of an exaggerated crisis?

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