Are universities offering their students the climate change education that they need? Young people will be dealing with climate impacts for the rest of their lives, and there is a lot they need to know.
To promote climate literacy and leadership, students and professors should encourage their universities to adopt a comprehensive climate change curriculum. Every university student should come away with a basic understanding of:
1) the Oil Age that began in the nineteenth century, and, in general, how energy sources influence human history
2) the influence of fossil fuel companies on the business sector and government
3) the emerging role of green energy and how it can be accelerated
4) the basics of climate change science, including the effect of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases on global warming, and projections of these influences into the future
5) the importance of finding the truth and contextualizing science politically
6) how social science can guide decision-making about wicked problems like climate change
7) how professors and their departments view climate science and stakeholder analysis, especially the roles of business and government in addressing climate change
8) whether responsibility is put on students as individuals to find these topics in their university's curriculum, or whether their university takes the initiative to design this material into their educational experience (for example, in a series of required courses)
9) the importance of looking beyond the titles of university sustainability programs to assess what they teach about climate change and energy evolution. For instance, do they teach from a strong sustainability paradigm (for the planet) or a weak sustainability paradigm (to protect companies alone)?
10) initiatives for green living on campus and in the local community
Responsible universities inject the climate change issue across their curricula and they practice what they preach. Even so, professors and students should hold them accountable to go beyond simplistic thinking ("We cover this in courses on business strategy") and greenwashing ("We are recycling in our cafeterias"). Courses should examine the big picture of climate science, stakeholder power, and global leadership, and students should learn how current and emerging leaders are tackling these challenges.
The time is now.