Australia Institute teaches climate change Media Release

Jan 29, 2008 - 9:43am

Teaching Climate Change: A new resource for teachers and students

With rising temperatures, prolonged drought and the seemingly permanent water restrictions Australians are now facing up to the reality of climate change. The mainstream media has finally caught up to the science in recognising that climate change is real and it is happening now.

In 2007, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Fourth Assessment Report. It concluded:

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.

The report also stated that there is a 90 per cent certainty that human activities are to blame. In 2008, the Bureau of Meteorology announced that Australia had recorded warmer-than-average temperatures for 16 of the past 18 years. It said that ‘this pattern is not surprising given that Australia’s climate is warming in line with the rest of the globe’.

With climate change on the political agenda and in the media, Australians are being inundated with information about climate change. For children, in particular, making sense of the information can be difficult, if not overwhelming.

Teaching climate change can also be hard because it cuts across subjects, including Science, Human Society and its Environment (HSIE) and Economics. Accessing suitable information can therefore prove challenging, especially for the aspects of climate change that receive less attention such as the ethics and economics of climate change.

Conscious of these issues, Australian Ethical Investment Ltd generously provided funding to the Australia Institute, a not-for-profit public interest think tank based in Canberra, to put together a series of teaching materials on climate change for high school teachers of year 9 and 10 students.
In conjunction with high school teachers and university academics who work in the field of climate change, the Australia Institute has compiled a series of nine individual modules. Each module addresses a different dimension of climate change. The modules aim to provide teachers and students with accurate information to consider and analyse some of the critical issues facing Australia, and indeed the world.

What might the impacts of climate change be in the future? What role can international negotiations play? Who is responsible for the damage caused by climate change? Who will suffer most from its effects? What policies can governments use to reduce our emissions? What are the economic costs? Is nuclear power the answer?

For example, Module 4 looks at the role of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. It describes the workings of the Protocol and highlights the role developed and developing countries can play. It also considers the arguments that surrounded Australia’s decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in 2007.

Module 5 introduces climate change as an ethical issue. Through the example of climate change it demonstrates the importance of ethical principles such as the polluter pays principle in resolving questions about who is responsible for the damage caused by climate change.

Module 9 considers the controversial issue of nuclear power in Australia. Suited to both teachers of science and the humanities, this module describes the science of nuclear energy. It then considers the arguments for and against nuclear power in Australia, together with an overview of the problem of nuclear waste.

It is envisaged that the series will be most useful to teachers in the humanities, namely in the studies of society and environment, geography and economics. Modules 1, 2 and 9, which cover the science and impacts of climate change and nuclear energy, will also provide useful background for science teachers. In addition, Module 6, which looks at the economics of climate change, is specifically targeted at students studying economics in year 11.

For more information about the series or to download the modules free of charge visit 

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