Looking globally: the future of education
Looking globally: the future of education

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Looking globally: the future of education

3.2 What evidence is there about environmental issues?

There is some debate, mainly within political and business communities, about the nature, extent and causes of these environmental issues. An example of this relates to carbon emission-related climate change. While the majority of scientists and experts believe that the weight of evidence points to a human-generated increase in carbon emissions which is increasing global air and sea temperatures, this is not universally accepted. Different people hold different views on what counts as reliable evidence, which can be influenced by differing world-views. Positions of power can be held by people with strongly held views and this can have implications for political and policy decision-making. We consider, if this is the world we live in, what kind of education does the next generation need?

Activity 3 Who decides?

Allow approximately 45 minutes.

This activity focuses on the complex issue of climate change by addressing the question: What evidence is available on environmental issues?

  1. Watch the UK physicist Brian Cox and Australian senator Malcolm Roberts discuss climate change in this short (under two minutes) BBC News video Climate Change: Professor Brian Cox clashes with sceptic Malcolm Roberts.

Download this video clip.
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Transcript

BRIAN COX
The absolute, absolute, consensus is that human action is leading to an increase in average temperatures-- absolute consensus. I know you may try to argue with that, but you can't.
MALCOLM ROBERTS
No, no, not might, I will.
BRIAN COX
But the key point is can we respond to it? Do we have the political institutions and the political will and the organisation globally to respond to this challenge? And that worries me immensely. I don't think we do at the moment.
MALCOLM ROBERTS
And I'm absolutely stunned that someone who is inspired by Richard Feynman, a fantastic scientist who believes in empirical evidence, is quite in consensus.
BRIAN COX
Can I just, I just... I brought the graph, right?
[LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE]
MALCOLM ROBERTS
First of all, that the data has been corrupted, and we know that the 1930s were warmer than today--
BRIAN COX
What do you mean by corrupted? Corrupted, what do you mean, corrupted?
MALCOLM ROBERTS
Been manipulated.
BRIAN COX
By whom?
MALCOLM ROBERTS
By NASA.
BRIAN COX
NASA??
MALCOLM ROBERTS
By the C, uh-- yes.
As far as I'm concerned, politics should be based on empirical evidence. All policy should be based on empirical evidence. I've heard consensus, which is not science. I've heard appeals to authority, which is not science. I've heard various--
BRIAN COX
You've seen a graph.
MALCOLM ROBERTS
Hang on. I've heard.
LINDA BURNEY
I'm--
BRIAN COX
Hang on. Throw you the evidence.
[APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER]
LINDA BURNEY
[INAUDIBLE].
MALCOLM ROBERTS
Hang on, hang on. Hang on, Brian.
BRIAN COX
This is a serious thing.
MALCOLM ROBERTS
You showed me a graph...
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  1. Spend 10 minutes skim reading the article from the New York Times Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Climate Change Denialist, to Lead E.P.A [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , which highlights the changing attitudes to climate change within the United States' Trump administration (Davenport and Lipton, 2016).
  2. Think about:
    • What skills and knowledge will citizens need to enable them to decide whether to agree with climate change supporters, sceptics or deniers?
    • What implications does the debate about scientific evidence (not just about climate change but about evidence related to a wide range of environmental issues such as those highlighted in the previous activity) have for educating the next generation?
    • Although this course is focused on the education of children and young people, what are the implications for our own education as adults (as parents, teachers and peer citizens)? Sustainable Development Goal 4 (introduced in Section 1.2) asks us to consider education as lifelong learning.
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