Tag Archives: Campaigns

Do your maths and tackle the climate crisis

So you want to be a climate scientist? For a start, you’ll need good maths. And Oxford educators have found a way to help you.

OXFORD, 29 November, 2019 – Who would have thought it, that everything which goes under the name of maths is a crucial part of the armoury of climate scientists? But, as the scientists themselves know well, it is, and anyone who wants to make an effective contribution to tackling the global climate emergency must be a competent mathematician.

That’s a lesson not lost on the movement that gave life to the idea of regular school climate strikes, Fridays For Future, which today embarks on another round of action aimed at stirring older generations into tackling the global crisis. It has already earned the backing of senior scientists, and now teachers as well are supporting its activities.

If you search online to find the qualifications you need to become a doctor, you’ll find thousands of answers. But ask the same question for solving climate change – for many people the defining issue of our time – and you may search in vain.

Enter MathsforPlanetEarth.org, part of a project on climate engagement with young people and schools being undertaken by the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) and the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford, UK.

“I’ve been to several school climate strikes this year and met many inspiring, passionate and very well-informed students. Our best contribution is to give them the intellectual tools to help do the job”

The project began with a pop-up “Ask a climate scientist” stand at the student marches, where ECI scientists quickly realised they needed a more strategic offer. They are now working with the university’s education department, with local teachers and with app developers, both “on curriculum” and extra-curriculum. MathsforPlanetEarth.org is their first output and is working to get climate change into A-level maths.

“We’ve started with maths”, says Myles Allen, Oxford’s professor of geosystem science and leader of climateprediction.net, the world’s largest climate forecasting experiment. “There are a lot of numbers and calculations in the weather, temperature and climate models, and around solutions like renewable energy and adaptations like where and how high to build flood defences. We need more brainy mathematicians.”

MathsforPlanetEarth.org has begun deliberately with exam questions. A team of local students – school and university – have worked with scientists at ECI, crafting a collection of climate-related problems based on the A-level and GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) syllabuses (see here for examples). Their problems closely follow the format of the more traditional topics usually associated with school maths.

Irritating topics

“I’ve been to several school climate strikes this year and met many inspiring, passionate and very well-informed students”, Professor Allen told the Climate News Network. “They have extraordinary energy. As educators, our best contribution is to give them the intellectual tools to help do the job.

“Many climate strikers seem taken aback when I urge them to keep their maths going. And when we looked at the examples of maths questions they are given at school, it’s not surprising: almost all of them seemed to be about cars or money, two topics almost guaranteed to irritate a concerned climate-striker.

“So we put this website together to provide teachers with interesting problems in climate change and sustainability, using exactly the techniques they are teaching in GCSE and A-levels anyway. For now, we just have to explain to kids how much of what they learn is relevant to climate change already.”

What MathsforPlanetEarth.org can do in the UK could work well elsewhere too. Dr Kim Polgreen, founder of a new social enterprise, Leadership in Global Change (LIGC), has been collaborating with ECI, hosting sustainability summer schools for 15-18 year olds from across the world, and from local schools in Oxford.

Impatient ambition

She is working to get ECI’s project into schools through teacher training organisations and teacher groups. “While teachers like the idea, they are challenged by needing some confidence in the science that lies behind the questions”, she says.

She is one of over 800 international graduates from ECI, now working in more than 80 countries, who could be a good way to tell teachers about the project worldwide. She also sees maths as just a start: “I am hopeful that we can expand the concept to texts used in English, to more case studies in geography and the sciences. This approach can make the curriculum across all subjects more real and meaningful for today’s teenagers.”

Professor Allen agrees: “Climate change – and the environment – are today’s pioneering topics for young people’s education. We must be ambitious and impatient about creating stimulating material across all subjects, equipping our children with the skills they need.” – Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

How would you make MathsforPlanetEarth.org better?

ECI would like to hear from teachers, students and others about what you think of MathsforPlanetEarth.org – and how you would improve and add to it.
Please send your comments to: mathsforplanetearth@ouce.ox.ac.uk

Thank you!

So you want to be a climate scientist? For a start, you’ll need good maths. And Oxford educators have found a way to help you.

OXFORD, 29 November, 2019 – Who would have thought it, that everything which goes under the name of maths is a crucial part of the armoury of climate scientists? But, as the scientists themselves know well, it is, and anyone who wants to make an effective contribution to tackling the global climate emergency must be a competent mathematician.

That’s a lesson not lost on the movement that gave life to the idea of regular school climate strikes, Fridays For Future, which today embarks on another round of action aimed at stirring older generations into tackling the global crisis. It has already earned the backing of senior scientists, and now teachers as well are supporting its activities.

If you search online to find the qualifications you need to become a doctor, you’ll find thousands of answers. But ask the same question for solving climate change – for many people the defining issue of our time – and you may search in vain.

Enter MathsforPlanetEarth.org, part of a project on climate engagement with young people and schools being undertaken by the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) and the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford, UK.

“I’ve been to several school climate strikes this year and met many inspiring, passionate and very well-informed students. Our best contribution is to give them the intellectual tools to help do the job”

The project began with a pop-up “Ask a climate scientist” stand at the student marches, where ECI scientists quickly realised they needed a more strategic offer. They are now working with the university’s education department, with local teachers and with app developers, both “on curriculum” and extra-curriculum. MathsforPlanetEarth.org is their first output and is working to get climate change into A-level maths.

“We’ve started with maths”, says Myles Allen, Oxford’s professor of geosystem science and leader of climateprediction.net, the world’s largest climate forecasting experiment. “There are a lot of numbers and calculations in the weather, temperature and climate models, and around solutions like renewable energy and adaptations like where and how high to build flood defences. We need more brainy mathematicians.”

MathsforPlanetEarth.org has begun deliberately with exam questions. A team of local students – school and university – have worked with scientists at ECI, crafting a collection of climate-related problems based on the A-level and GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) syllabuses (see here for examples). Their problems closely follow the format of the more traditional topics usually associated with school maths.

Irritating topics

“I’ve been to several school climate strikes this year and met many inspiring, passionate and very well-informed students”, Professor Allen told the Climate News Network. “They have extraordinary energy. As educators, our best contribution is to give them the intellectual tools to help do the job.

“Many climate strikers seem taken aback when I urge them to keep their maths going. And when we looked at the examples of maths questions they are given at school, it’s not surprising: almost all of them seemed to be about cars or money, two topics almost guaranteed to irritate a concerned climate-striker.

“So we put this website together to provide teachers with interesting problems in climate change and sustainability, using exactly the techniques they are teaching in GCSE and A-levels anyway. For now, we just have to explain to kids how much of what they learn is relevant to climate change already.”

What MathsforPlanetEarth.org can do in the UK could work well elsewhere too. Dr Kim Polgreen, founder of a new social enterprise, Leadership in Global Change (LIGC), has been collaborating with ECI, hosting sustainability summer schools for 15-18 year olds from across the world, and from local schools in Oxford.

Impatient ambition

She is working to get ECI’s project into schools through teacher training organisations and teacher groups. “While teachers like the idea, they are challenged by needing some confidence in the science that lies behind the questions”, she says.

She is one of over 800 international graduates from ECI, now working in more than 80 countries, who could be a good way to tell teachers about the project worldwide. She also sees maths as just a start: “I am hopeful that we can expand the concept to texts used in English, to more case studies in geography and the sciences. This approach can make the curriculum across all subjects more real and meaningful for today’s teenagers.”

Professor Allen agrees: “Climate change – and the environment – are today’s pioneering topics for young people’s education. We must be ambitious and impatient about creating stimulating material across all subjects, equipping our children with the skills they need.” – Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

How would you make MathsforPlanetEarth.org better?

ECI would like to hear from teachers, students and others about what you think of MathsforPlanetEarth.org – and how you would improve and add to it.
Please send your comments to: mathsforplanetearth@ouce.ox.ac.uk

Thank you!

Bubble may burst for fossil fuel giants

NB: EMBARGOED UNTIL 2301 GMT, Monday, 7 October The giant corporations powering the fossil fuel industry are warned that they face a damaging backlash if they try to resist the mounting pressures of climate change legislation and high-profile campaigning London, 7 October − The financial and economic muscle of the global fossil fuel industry’s corporate behemoths will not protect them from the costly effects of negative stigmatisation if they ignore climate change pressures, according to a new academic study. The influence wielded on world stock markets by such corporations is enormous, with oil and gas companies alone making up about 20% of the value of the London financial index and about 11% of that in New York. However, if any meaningful action is to be taken on climate change in the years ahead, the activities of the fossil fuel industry will have to be severely curtailed and the bulk of assets frozen, inevitably leading to a sharp decrease in corporate valuations – what some analysts refer to as a bursting of the “carbon bubble”. Not only are such corporations coming under increasing pressure from regulators and from climate legislation limiting CO² emissions, but a high-profile campaign is also under way to persuade investors to withdraw from companies involved with the fossil fuel industry. According to the new study by academics at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University, the fossil fuel companies cannot afford to ignore such campaigns. If they do, they will – at the very least – risk severe damage to their reputation, but they could also face increasing problems raising finance for their work. The study, Stranded Assets and the Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign, compares campaigns going on in the fossil fuel sector with other similar movements that have taken place − such as the campaign against corporations with investments in apartheid South Africa, and tussles with the tobacco, munitions and gaming industries. The campaign against fossil fuel investments is spearheaded by the 350.org group, under the title Fossil Free. The Smith School study says the campaign draws heavily on the experience of targeting apartheid-era investments in South Africa.

Targeting investors

Such campaigns move forward in distinct phases. At first, the aim is to create public awareness and publicity on the issue. Campaigners then target various institutions, particularly universities. Finally, the movement goes global, targeting big investors such as pension funds. However, those anticipating a mass withdrawal of investment are likely to be disappointed, the study says. Experience shows that only a very small proportion of funds is actually withdrawn. “For example, despite the huge interest in the media and a three-decade evolution, only about 80 organisations and funds have ever substantially divested from tobacco equity, and even fewer from tobacco debt,” the study says. But such campaigns create publicity and can harm corporate reputations – resulting in what the study terms “stigmatisation”. It says: “As with individuals, a stigma can produce negative consequences for an organisation. For example, firms heavily criticised in the media suffer from a bad image that scares away suppliers, sub-contractors, potential employees, and customers. “Governments and politicians prefer to engage with ‘clean’ firms to prevent adverse spill-overs that could taint their reputation or jeopardise their re-election. Shareholders can demand changes in management or the composition of the board of directors of stigmatised companies.” This all has a knock-on effect. Companies associated with the fossil fuel sector might find themselves frozen out of public contracts, and banks might be reluctant to make loans. The study says the coal industry − more visibly polluting and less powerful than the oil and gas sector − is likely to feel the biggest initial impact of such a campaign.

Demand depressed

“If during the stigmatisation process, campaigners are able to create the expectation that the government might legislate to levy a carbon tax, which would have the effect of depressing demand, then they will materially increase the uncertainty surrounding the future cash flows of fossil fuel companies,” the study says. The study has some advice for the fossil fuel industry. Rebranding is one option: BP tried this some years ago, with the change from British Petroleum to “Beyond Petroleum” and turning its logo into a green and yellow sunflower. Companies would be ill-advised, says the report, to play tough with campaigners. “The outcomes of stigmatisation will be more severe for companies seen to be engaged in wilful negligence and ‘insincere’ rhetoric − saying one thing and doing another. “Evidence suggests that hardball strategies intensify stigmatisation, focusing attention on companies that are unrepentant about violating social norms.” − Climate News Network

NB: EMBARGOED UNTIL 2301 GMT, Monday, 7 October The giant corporations powering the fossil fuel industry are warned that they face a damaging backlash if they try to resist the mounting pressures of climate change legislation and high-profile campaigning London, 7 October − The financial and economic muscle of the global fossil fuel industry’s corporate behemoths will not protect them from the costly effects of negative stigmatisation if they ignore climate change pressures, according to a new academic study. The influence wielded on world stock markets by such corporations is enormous, with oil and gas companies alone making up about 20% of the value of the London financial index and about 11% of that in New York. However, if any meaningful action is to be taken on climate change in the years ahead, the activities of the fossil fuel industry will have to be severely curtailed and the bulk of assets frozen, inevitably leading to a sharp decrease in corporate valuations – what some analysts refer to as a bursting of the “carbon bubble”. Not only are such corporations coming under increasing pressure from regulators and from climate legislation limiting CO² emissions, but a high-profile campaign is also under way to persuade investors to withdraw from companies involved with the fossil fuel industry. According to the new study by academics at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University, the fossil fuel companies cannot afford to ignore such campaigns. If they do, they will – at the very least – risk severe damage to their reputation, but they could also face increasing problems raising finance for their work. The study, Stranded Assets and the Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign, compares campaigns going on in the fossil fuel sector with other similar movements that have taken place − such as the campaign against corporations with investments in apartheid South Africa, and tussles with the tobacco, munitions and gaming industries. The campaign against fossil fuel investments is spearheaded by the 350.org group, under the title Fossil Free. The Smith School study says the campaign draws heavily on the experience of targeting apartheid-era investments in South Africa.

Targeting investors

Such campaigns move forward in distinct phases. At first, the aim is to create public awareness and publicity on the issue. Campaigners then target various institutions, particularly universities. Finally, the movement goes global, targeting big investors such as pension funds. However, those anticipating a mass withdrawal of investment are likely to be disappointed, the study says. Experience shows that only a very small proportion of funds is actually withdrawn. “For example, despite the huge interest in the media and a three-decade evolution, only about 80 organisations and funds have ever substantially divested from tobacco equity, and even fewer from tobacco debt,” the study says. But such campaigns create publicity and can harm corporate reputations – resulting in what the study terms “stigmatisation”. It says: “As with individuals, a stigma can produce negative consequences for an organisation. For example, firms heavily criticised in the media suffer from a bad image that scares away suppliers, sub-contractors, potential employees, and customers. “Governments and politicians prefer to engage with ‘clean’ firms to prevent adverse spill-overs that could taint their reputation or jeopardise their re-election. Shareholders can demand changes in management or the composition of the board of directors of stigmatised companies.” This all has a knock-on effect. Companies associated with the fossil fuel sector might find themselves frozen out of public contracts, and banks might be reluctant to make loans. The study says the coal industry − more visibly polluting and less powerful than the oil and gas sector − is likely to feel the biggest initial impact of such a campaign.

Demand depressed

“If during the stigmatisation process, campaigners are able to create the expectation that the government might legislate to levy a carbon tax, which would have the effect of depressing demand, then they will materially increase the uncertainty surrounding the future cash flows of fossil fuel companies,” the study says. The study has some advice for the fossil fuel industry. Rebranding is one option: BP tried this some years ago, with the change from British Petroleum to “Beyond Petroleum” and turning its logo into a green and yellow sunflower. Companies would be ill-advised, says the report, to play tough with campaigners. “The outcomes of stigmatisation will be more severe for companies seen to be engaged in wilful negligence and ‘insincere’ rhetoric − saying one thing and doing another. “Evidence suggests that hardball strategies intensify stigmatisation, focusing attention on companies that are unrepentant about violating social norms.” − Climate News Network