The Mail Online followed that up with: “Every student will have to attend compulsory lectures on climate change at University of Sheffield under radical new plans”.
And the Telegraph also covered the story, opting for: “Sheffield University students to attend compulsory lectures on climate change”.
But are students’ timetables about to be filled up with climate change lectures or is there another explanation beyond the stories?
The stories are false.
They all stem from a speech given by University of Sheffield vice-chancellor Koen Lamberts at the climate strike.
Addressing the crowd gathered in the city, Lamberts said: “We are embedding education for sustainable development into the curriculum of every single course.
“There is a reason for doing this: whether our students go on to become engineers, doctors, linguists or historians, it doesn’t matter.
“We want every single one of them to be equipped with the education, the knowledge, the skills, the values and the attributes that they need to work and live in a sustainable way.”
This was misunderstood and misreported by The Tab as the introduction of climate change lectures before the story was then repeated wholesale by the other media outlets.
A University of Sheffield spokesperson confirmed to The Big Issue that no climate change lectures were forthcoming and that the institution’s bid to go green does not include “trying to turn historians into climate scientists”.
Instead of the introduction of lectures, the university is aiming to weave sustainable development into subjects that students are already studying over the next five years. It’s a bid to improve the understanding of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It may seem like a subtle difference but, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, climate change still remains a divisive issue for some people, including US president Donald Trump.
It is also an area where science is moving fast – just last week a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that oceans and frozen regions around the globe were being decimated by carbon emissions.
Last year, the warnings centred on how a 1.5C temperature rise would cause widespread devastation by the end of the century. That makes it a difficult subject to teach contemporaneously. And restricting the reports to lectures also undermines the work that the university is doing to deliver its pledge to go carbon neutral.
Away from the lecture theatre, university bosses have promised to draw up an action plan to hit that goal, as well as meeting with the students’ union to embed sustainable development into every facet of the university.
This does come off the back of criticism of the university in May for failing to divest fully from fossil fuels.
But none of the action will involve forcing students to head to climate change lectures – it’s more comprehensive than that.
Image: Miles Cole