John Armstrong

Climate activism must not be allowed to undermine climate science

(Credit: Getty images)

Student activist Edred Whittingham baffled the snooker world last week by jumping onto the green baize at the Snooker World Championships in Sheffield and detonating a package of orange chalk across the table in a bid to end global warming. A few days earlier, the German government had baffled scientists by shutting down their three remaining nuclear power plants; this despite a despairing open letter from scientists, including two Nobel Laureates, explaining the plants’ potential to reduce Germany’s carbon footprint by up to 30 million tons of C02 per year.

As these stories show, there is no shortage of good intentions to save the planet, but there remains scope for improvement in how we turn these good intentions into practical results.

One attempt to address this is Unesco’s programme of ‘Education for Sustainable Development’ (ESD) which seeks to ‘reorient education to address sustainable development’, an objective enshrined in the UN’s Agenda 21. This has been adopted enthusiastically by UK educational quango the Quality Assurance Association for Higher Education (QAA) who now urge all UK university degree programmes to incorporate ESD. But is ESD the answer to our climate woes, or might it be another case of misdirected good intentions?

Inane virtue signalling has no more place in our universities than it has at the Crucible

One thing is certain: ESD is a radically ambitious programme. ESD abandons the traditional approach of higher education where academics develop modules and courses based on their own academic expertise. It replaces this with a top-down model where the UN sets the agenda and enforces it through national education bureaucracies.

The goals of ESD are also radical. As the name ‘Education for Sustainable Development’ indicates, it seeks to challenge the very purpose of education. It rejects traditional educational objectives, such as personal development and understanding, in favour of promoting the UN’s vision of sustainable development.

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