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.”

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

  1. JR

    People are still arguing against the ‘consensus’ on both asbestos and tobacco. Where they can’t argue with the science, they suggest that mitigation policies and regulation are too expensive, or are ineffective. If that doesn’t work, they change the name, or alter the product in a minor way.

    These voices were much louder before the ‘consensus’ which you accept was established. Look them up:

    (White) Asbestos is now called chrysotile and still banned in the US and many western countries, but is sold around the world with a range of ‘opinions’ about its safety.

    There are numerous articles and papers about why smoking reduction policies are inefficient, and wider protestations about ‘free speech’ and marketing even in the UK which has pretty advanced attitudes in this area.

    Unfortunately, the philosophy of science is much more complicated than you would like it to be, and I would hope that any GCSE exam on Popper would not be multiple choice.

    To be honest, you know where to find the scientific consensus on this, so I’m not going to repeat the whole argument for why you are wrong in a paragraph.

    If you want to ignore it all to pay attention to the scientific equivalents of ‘the 9/11 truth movement’ and David Icke that is fine by me. As far as I am concerned it is much more important to make sure that policy makers understand the reason for being cautious with what their policies support, even in the face of dissemination.

    This includes encouraging kids to understand the risks of cause and effect, and why it is better to err on the side of caution – particularly when their actions may be irreversible.

  2. OldLb

    They may be arguing on Tabacco or asbestos, but its clear. There is a theory, it makes predictions, and it can be tested in both cases experimentally, and the results show a clear causal link.

    However, if you accept that as a scientific method then the same applies to climate theories.

    Those theories have made predictions, they consensus predictions are in the IPCC reports. They have been running for long enough that they can be tested. They have been falsified.

    Temperatures are below their predictions by a significant margin. So even as we speak, predictions are being lowered and lowered. A sure sign of a fundamental problem.

  3. henrytinsley

    Not much of a dispute actually.

  4. p a t r i c k

    Within the scientific community there is no dispute about mankind’s influence on climate.

    No respected climate scientists are putting forward cases against mankind’s influence on climate in peer reviewed journals.

    The “dispute” is entirely conducted in the media by the climate change deniers.

    The climate change denial is a media phenomenon funded and promoted by in various ways by hugely wealthy groups with a vested interest in undermining the scientific community.

    Thick right wingers are simply mirroring the views of the very wealthy climate change denying groups.

  5. p a t r i c k

    It is obvious you just made up the story about the primary school teacher.

    You are an idiot.

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