Scientists find holes in climate lesson

20th March 2009 at 00:00
QCA booklet for teachers on global warming leaves academics hot under the collar

Scientists are warning that a curriculum guide for secondary schools makes ideological assumptions about the impact of global warming.

London could be flooded in 50 years, with malaria afflicting Europe in 70 years if nothing is done to slow climate change, according to a booklet published by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority last week. It is designed to show teachers how they can teach sustainable development within the new key stage 3 curriculum.

But the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, a consortium of scientists from six leading universities, says the claims should be treated with caution.

"There are some huge assumptions there," said Asher Minns, a spokesman for the centre. "It is a bit of an ideological thing to suggest London will be flooded."

The European malaria and London flooding claims come in a section that uses a graphic from the charity Action Aid showing what could happen if the world heats up.

"Scientists are predicting that global temperatures will rise between 3C to 6C by the end of this century if we continue as we are," the caption reads. "This future need not happen if we act to slow climate change."

Mr Minns agreed with the predicted rise in temperatures. But he was concerned that the scenarios did not take account of the way people would react and adapt.

"This does make the assumption that nothing will be done - not only about climate change, but about flooding in London, with better flood defences, and about malaria, with better health care," he said.

"It is not as though London will flood and we will stand and watch the tidal wave wash over us."

On the malaria claim, he said: "There are a hell of a lot of assumptions in that statement.

"This (booklet) is all about slowing climate change. But if I was talking to a schools audience I would say it is not only about reducing carbon dioxide emissions, it is about adapting as well."

A QCA spokesman said: "This is a cross-curriculum planning document for guidance and is certainly not designed to be prescriptive. It does not preclude teaching about how flooding can be alleviated."

The booklet is the latest in a series designed to help secondary schools implement seven new "cross-curriculum dimensions".

At a conference in London last week, David Gardner, a QCA curriculum adviser, told teachers that the dimensions should be taught as an integral part of the curriculum within existing subjects and not as distinct separate sessions.

"They are not something on the side to tick off," he said. "They should be at the heart of the planning of the curriculum."

For details, go to curriculum-dimensions.

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