Climate change and geography


Sir, – I would like to congratulate the Minister for Education Joe McHugh for his decision to review the place of history as a core subject within the Junior Cycle curriculum as previously highlighted by Enrico Dal Lago, Deirdre Mac Mathúna and Alistair Malcolm (November 24th, December 1st and December 17th). However, I urge the Minister to do the same for the position of geography.

Geography is essential for our identity, sense of place and role as citizens. Current global challenges including migration, climate change and Brexit highlight the critical role of a sound geographical education.

´This year of 2018 marks 30 years since climate change was first declared a human generated phenomenon by Nasa climatologist James Hansen. In the meantime a steady drum of scientific reports have sounded warnings about climate change predictions.

The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (October 8th, 2018) predicts there are only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5 degrees – beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

In spite of these devastating climatic events, approaches to a transition from carbon have been slow and ineffective. International climate change negotiators at the COP24 talks in Poland agreed tougher targets for cutting greenhouse gases under the Paris climate agreement, as well as stronger transparency rules for countries in disclosing their emissions.

As citizens we have a vested interest in climate change. Through geography we learn to understand climate change along with its causes and impacts. Junior Cycle students can also research this topic and design age appropriate actions for change. The time for action is now.

While the current Minister for Climate Change, Richard Bruton, was formerly minister for education, he never expressed an interest in climate change education. Without robust climate change education, citizens will not demand changes from our political leaders.

Geography provides an important curricular space for students to engage with contemporary local and global events including climate change.

There is a need for joined-up thinking between government departments. If Mr Bruton is serious about tacking climate change perhaps he should remind his Government colleague about the importance of geography as a curricular area for all Junior Cycle students. – Yours, etc,


Lecturer in Primary


Mary Immaculate College,