Climate change & the university curriculum: Wed 25 Nov

The Paris UN Conference on Climate Change runs from late November to early December. During recent weeks some of our academics joined in a nation-wide initiative Global Climate Change Week to bring climate change into their teaching.

On Wednesday 25 November, at 6.15pm, they discuss how the multi-disciplinary understanding that climate change requires could be embedded within the University curriculum.  As well as a panel of some of the lecturers, there will also be responses from students.

The gathering aims to develop a clear vision among lecturers and students which can inform future curriculum planning. All welcome.

Time:             Wednesday 25 November, 6.15 – 7.45 pm
Venue:           8 West 2.1

Panel contributions include:

1. Innovation for Climate Change

Steve Cayzer (Mechanical Engineering)

Assuming we accept that climate change poses a ‘clear and present danger’ and that business as usual is not an option, we are going to have to change in some way. Change implies innovation: technical; social; political; organisational. I will describe some of the main ‘levers for change’ and introduce some different perspectives on their desirability and effectiveness.


 2. Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Emma Emmanuelson Patterson (Chemical Engineering)

One path towards a sustainable society is in innovating and delivering resource efficient practices and solutions for the process industry with the aim to ‘do more with less’. This includes the development of new technologies and reactions that use for example less harmful chemicals and renewable resources. It also includes taking a systems approach through the integrated use of energy and materials resources along the process industry value chain (including valorisation and Industrial ecology).

This presentation will highlight some new approaches in terms of ‘big picture thinking’ and will showcase a selection of ‘Sustainable Chemical Technologies’.


 3. The Logic of Transformation

Peter Harper (Natural Sciences)

We have about 15 years-worth of ‘carbon-budget’ left. The time has come for the climate question to outrank all other issues. Globally it requires a very rapid transformation. In present political context this is unlikely, but is physically possible. We should go with the physics, not the politics. There are historical precedents for such a rate of change. The academic community should focus on the necessary tasks for at least a generation. This should apply both to teaching and research. New curricula are implied across the whole HE sector. Universities are well-placed to lead the transition.

4. The global climate change policy architecture - cause or symptom of the problem?

Ayesha Siddiqi (Social and Policy Sciences)

Global action on climate change is governed (and limited) by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a treaty signed by all UN countries in 1992. Under these international negotiations there are two broad aims, one is to set targets on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions and the other is to provide financing for poor countries. I argue that the structures that exacerbate the problem of anthropogenic climate change should not be marketed as the ‘solution’.

5. Human responses to climate change – what lies under the surface?

Caroline Hickman (Social and Policy Sciences)

Climate change is not a new problem but the current changes we are facing are driven by human activities. Despite countless initiatives by campaign groups and governments we could be accused of continuing to avoid taking sufficient, effective, collective action. My argument is that whilst technical solutions are necessary, they are insufficient on their own. People are not wholly rational beings, so it follows that approaches to climate change that depend on rational argument alone will be ineffective. Psychosocial perspectives that examine human responses to climate change could help us find the necessary fundamental behavioural and attitudinal changes needed.


6. Faith perspectives on climate change

Séverine Deneulin (Social and Policy Sciences)

In May 2015, Pope Francis addressed a letter to every person on the planet to enter in dialogue about the care of our common home. It argued that ‘If we are truly concerned to develop an ecology capable of remedying the damage we have done, no branch of sciences, no form of wisdom can be left out, and that includes religion and the language particular to it’. How can the wisdom embedded in faith traditions contribute to the global public debate on climate change? Two major contributions will be briefly discussed: how the ecological crisis is fundamentally a moral crisis; and the urgency of rediscovering a sense of awe and gratitude as well as deep inter-connectedness. We are one family in a common home.

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