What the new GCSE on global warming should teach

For years, environmentalists have campaigned for children to study global warming as a subject rather than just a part of geography. Their wish has now been granted in England with a new GCSE in natural history, from 2025. We don’t know anything about the program yet, but it’s an opportunity to ask ourselves what the problems of our planet really are, and what is the effectiveness of the net-zero agenda. as a solution.

Rather than being scared to death about the future of the planet, students should instead be encouraged to take a rationalist approach. They might wonder if the obsession with climate change over the past few decades has distracted attention from the many other major issues facing the planet. And they could also look at ‘extreme weather events’ and whether they really cause more casualties.

Let’s start with hurricanes. The world has seen fewer of these in 2021 than any year since satellites began systematically recording their prevalence. The latest study from the United Nations Climate Scientists Group finds that hurricanes will be less frequent but stronger, increasing the business cost of hurricane damage. But because the world will also become richer, the relative damages will continue to decline, just a little more slowly than they would have. A problem, yes. But not a disaster.

So, is “climate chaos” costing more lives – in the Third World or elsewhere? As far as official records can attest, the overall risk of death from climate-related disasters has declined over the past century, not by a small amount but by an astonishing 99%. Over the past 20 years, as temperatures have risen, heat-related deaths have increased by 116,000 per year. But a recent global Lancet The study also shows that cold deaths, which are almost ten times more frequent, have decreased by 283,000. It’s all a matter of perspective.

To get a better idea of ​​what to expect from a warming planet, we should turn to the latest damage estimates from the economic models used by the Biden and Obama administrations to set policy. This research reveals that the entire global cost of climate change – not just to economies, but in every way – will amount to less than 4% impact on GDP by the end of the century.

What do these percentages really mean? According to the UN’s own estimates, the average person in 2100 will be 450% richer than today. Global warming will reduce this increase by 4%, reducing it by 16 percentage points. This means that in 2100, the average person will be “only” 434% richer. It’s not a disaster.

There are practical implications. There are certainly studies showing that low lying Bangladesh will be threatened by sea level rise by the end of the century. But similarly, the UN also assumes that by then Bangladesh will be wealthier than the Netherlands currently is and able to afford flood defences.

It is crucial to apply economics to the natural sciences because there is certainly a trade-off to be made. The world already spends more than half a trillion dollars a year on climate policies, while government spending in innovation-rich countries in areas such as health, defence, agriculture and science has declined in percentage of GDP in recent decades. Such investments underpin future growth, which may explain why wealthy country incomes have nearly stagnated this century. Contrast that with China, where innovation spending has increased by 50%, education is improving rapidly and average incomes have increased fivefold since 2000.

A natural history lesson might ask kids something else: why, despite all this focus, are we still failing to solve climate change? Last year, global energy-related CO2 emissions were the highest on record. Britain is doing its part, having reduced climate emissions relatively more than any G20 country since 2010, with overall climate emissions per capita lower than in Victorian times. But energy prices have risen dramatically.

Most of this century’s emissions will come from developing countries eager to lift their people out of poverty with cheap and reliable energy. To get the rest of the world to join a decarbonization agenda, we need to dramatically increase funding for research and development into green energy sources, so that they eventually become so cheap that everyone can afford them. to offer.

The UK government recently announced ‘carbon training’ for every local authority nursery, school, college and university in England. This should extend to where we are today – and how far the proclaimed solutions solve the overall problem. If there’s a lag, maybe the next generation can point it out and change a conversation that’s stayed the same for too long.

Teresa H. Sadler