Shameful climate change education ensures a continuing cycle of scientific and political contention, resulting in environmental calamity.
Impact on Climate Change Protectors
Political interference of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Summary for Policy Makers is already cause for concern. Releasing a powerful network of such politicians on the global stage will further contaminate and weaken such environmental safeguards at the political interface stage.
Machiavellian environmental politicians could not only spread doubt that fosters 'business as usual' policies, they could employ unscrupulous tactics to justify the dissolution of established climate change agreements. Scientific ignorance diffusing through the US corridors of power, combined with isolationist attitudes, provide little hope for hard-fought bilateral climate agreements with China.
Educational Status of Top-level Politicians
This means no top level politicians have studied climate change at school. Although scientific advisers plug this gap, deeply entrenched beliefs formed from a young age by parents, media or peer groups, will muffle climate change knowledge learned later in life. This has fostered decades of disunity and contention between politicians and scientists.
With society now widely accepting the causes and consequences of climate change, does it matter? Politicians with archaic belief systems will soon be displaced by upcoming ones with contemporary knowledge. However, future politicians' education is shaped by the policies that these dinosaur politicians establish now.
At present, there are no set qualifications for entering politics. This allows a wide spectrum of talents and educational areas of expertise. Conversely, it enables the most powerful jobs in a country to be held by scientifically impoverished, or worse still, unconsciously incompetent individuals. Translated, this means a leader who thinks they know it all and won't accept expert advice.
Even undergraduates reading Politics at university would be ill equipped to devise appropriate climate policies. According to the Complete University Guide's Ranking Table, Oxford and Cambridge University are in the top 3 places to study Politics. Entry requirements to both places do not include Science A-levels but courses are instead combined with History.
What Subjects cover Climate Change at GCSE?
AQA will rightly dispute that climate change is covered in Geography and the six science GCSEs it presents. (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Additional Science, Combined Science Trilogy and Combined Science Synergy). These sciences can be taken in a plethora of combinations.
However, a detailed analysis of AQA's curriculums reveal coverage of climate change causes, consequences and solutions is either meagre, incomplete or scattered. Even the most academic students who take triple science would only gain a cursory understanding of this complex subject.
Geography successfully addresses causes, consequences and solutions. Regrettably, information is peppered across the syllabus meaning students and future politicians would have to synthesise long-forgotten knowledge. Furthermore, Geography is an optional subject and can be dropped at age 14.
In 2016, The Joint Council for Qualifications stated that only 228,463 students sat Geography GCSE in England. According to the Department of Education, this is only 42% of the 540,689 pupils at the end of Key Stage 4 in state-funded English schools. This means that 58% of students rely on the meagre, scattered education on offer in Science.
Unfortunately with such an inadequate climate education, it is no wonder that politicians dig in their heels and society prioritises their comforts. Our education is, according to the Brundltland Report's definintion, 'compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.' Dinosaur attitudes are cultivating equally prehistoric descendants that should be assigned to the fossil record.
Imagine the scenario. A powerful country's newly elected leader enters office. Their climate change knowledge is only as good as the education they received and is hobbled by the capitalist values that shape their intractable neoliberal beliefs.
Result. A senior political team that supports equally parochial views. President Trump has flagrantly followed this strategy, appointing Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy. Both are out and out climate change insurgents, setting the scene for a cascade of environmentally negative consequences.
Climate action is cited as the UN's 13th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). Malala Yousadzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, believes that ''all the SDGs come down to education.'' It should be no surprise therefore that many of the present climate change problems stem from our education system.
With the IPCC founded in 1988, no basic climate change education existed before this date. In reality, scepticism galvanised by fossil fuel interests, means credible education won't have existed before 2000.
Therefore, politicians may only have studied climate change at secondary school. AQA, the most commonly used examination board at this level, are preparing for the first year of new GCSEs. At a time when climate education should be expanded and made compulsory, they have failed to propose Environmental Science GCSE for reform. This removes the opportunity for future politicians to comprehensively study climate change at this level.
With Environmental Science offered at A-level, one might question whether this matters. After all, specialisation at higher levels is not uncommon. However, education is not only a cascade of knowledge, but also enthusiasm. GCSE options entice specialisation at A-level, thereupon increasing the subsequent expertise needed to combat environmental problems.
It is true that climate change is not the easiest of problems to understand. Poorer nations are experiencing the consequences of the richer nations' actions. These actions provide wealth and comfort and the capacity to protect ourselves from the raging storm.
Furthermore, with our 'here and now' mentality, threats to future generations do little to motivate us to action. That is why we need scientifically educated leaders who can see through this white noise that deafens us to the reality of our situation.