News from the world of maths: School maths to beat climate change

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

School maths to beat climate change

Good maths and science school education is vital in dealing with climate change according to Frances Cairncross, President of the British Asoociation of the Advancement of Science and Chair of Britain's Economic and Social Research Council. Speaking at the BA Festival of Science taking place in Norwich last week, Ms Cairncross said that trying to mitigate the impact of climate change is no longer sufficient: we need to put equal effort into preparing for a world with a different climate. "We need to think now about policies that prepare for a hotter, drier world, especially in poorer countries. That may involve, for instance, developing new crops, constructing flood defences, setting different building regulations, or banning building close to sea level."

To develop such strategies we don't only need scientists, but also a well-informed public that can partake in public debate and help to drive change. A good school education in maths and science is vital in creating both. "An innumerate population is less likely to devise good solutions to climate change and a host of other environmental problems than one at home with mathematical and scientific concepts," Ms Cairncross said. "Perhaps we need to experiment with a bounty for every A grade maths A-level taken in a maintained school... or a couple of extra UCAS points for each A grade."

Climate change features strongly at this year's Science Festival and the scientists' predictions are dire, giving us only a few years to seriously curb our carbon emissions or face drastic change. Ms Cairncross called the Kyoto agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions "ineffectual" and suggested that an effective strategy to deal with environmental problems involves "persuading this generation to accept sacrifices on behalf of posterity." Such altruistic behaviour is only likely to come about if people understand the risks and realities involved in climate change and for this they need a sound mathematical and scientific grounding.

posted by Plus @ 12:52 PM

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