LSE should lead the way on climate change education

Institutions like LSE have the responsibility to educate all students and future leaders on the realities of climate change

The dangers of climate change cannot be overstated. Climate scientists project that global temperatures may rise by as much 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century. The effects of even half of that – which is essentially what the Paris Climate Accords, signed by almost every nation in the world, was aimed at – would be calamitous. Much of the world would be plagued by frequent and consistent drought, famine and disease. It would spell the end of coastal cities and coral reefs, and would make the desert climates of Africa and the American southwest uninhabitable.

The notion – common among middle and upper-class folks – that climate change solely impacts the Third World is fundamentally flawed. Climate change would lead to widespread resource scarcity, raising prices on basic necessities like food, energy, and housing, thus lowering the quality of life for all but the super-rich. Moreover, not only is it in our collective global, humanitarian interest to focus on the dangers posed by climate change, it’s actually in the fiduciary interest of the corporate world as well.

If this prognostication seems pseudo-apocalyptic: good. The fact is, not enough people are quite as alarmed about this lethal issue as they should be. A recent poll showed that just 30 percent of Brits were “very concerned” about climate change which – while the highest in decades – is simply not enough. The primary reason for this is education. Most of the general public isn’t aware of the extensive and damaging impacts of climate change beyond the vague notion that they should be afraid of it. Some even deny it altogether: a poll in 2017 found that about 1 in 8 Brits doubt the science of climate change.

But even if everyone were convinced of both the existence and urgency of climate change, that still wouldn’t be enough. In a recent UN report, climate scientists pleaded that drastic measures must be taken for humanity to even have a chance at surviving the global catastrophes that await us in the near future. These include an overall reduction in global emissions to the tune of 1 billion tons per year, or 2% annually from now until 2030, with a “total or near-total phaseout of the burning of coal” by 2050.

Here’s where LSE comes in. A report by Oxfam found that the richest 10% of the world population is responsible for nearly half of CO2 emissions, while the richest 50% are responsible for about 90%. As a school that educates a disproportionate number of the world’s future leaders in business, banking and finance, LSE has a responsibility to make its soon-to-be wealthy students both conscious of the dangers of climate change and active in their resolve to contribute to its amelioration.

LSE should implement a mandatory course on climate change to accompany the conventional education of students. This could simply be a one-term seminar or a more long-term program along the lines of LSE100. In crafting such a course, LSE can make itself a benchmark on climate education and encourage its peers in London, Britain and around the world to follow suit and implement similar programs. For far too long, those with financial power have proclaimed their dedication to fighting the harmful effects of climate change and “going green” while continuing to exacerbate the problem. Now it’s time for them to put up or shut up.

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