Let’s Talk About Climate: School students lead discussions on climate policy

Let’s Talk About Climate: School students lead discussions on climate policy

This autumn, Oxford University Museum of Natural History ran an ambitious program of public workshops to examine the science of climate change. The cross-disciplinary project was co-led by Dr. Ken Amor (Earth Sciences) and Sarah Lloyd (OUMNH).

Commencing on Saturday 14th September, the Let’s Talk About Climate (LTAC) project aimed to engage young people in the 15 – 19 year old age range, with a series of expert talks and activities about what climate change is, how society and the environment is affected, and their personal responsibility to bring about change.

The development of the LTAC project occurred at a time when global youth engagement with the climate crisis increased dramatically. However, many of the LTAC participants revealed at the start of the programme that despite feeling generally well informed about the crisis and being passionate activists, they struggled to communicate the science and sense of urgency to their peers, families and policy makers.

Over the course of six interactive workshops, students were able to engage with academics actively involved in climate research, drawing on expertise from the University’s departments of Earth Sciences, Engineering, Atmospheric Physics, Geography and the Environment and Plant sciences. The students were encouraged to think about how they might solve the problems facing the planet and develop ideas for passing on their own message to influence decisions made at individual, local, and national levels. Each workshop also had a stand-alone theme, meaning participants could join at any point in the programme.

Participants of the Let’s Talk About Climate Change programme, designed and delivered activities to share their knowledge and ideas with visitors to the Oxford Museum of Natural History.

The final event was held on Saturday 2nd November in the Oxford Museum of Natural History. The students first shared their findings with members of the public through a series of posters and activities they had created, before taking part in discussions with invited local figures. Two local MPs, a county councillor and the Lord Mayor of Oxford made up a responsive and highly engaging panel discussion. This was a unique opportunity for LTAC participants to seek answers from officials in the same week as a general election was announced.

A panel of invited speakers discuss policy with the Let’s Talk About Climate Change participants. The panel included (from left to right) former local MP and Labour politician Anneliese Dodds, Councillor Norman MacRae, the Mayor of Oxford Councillor Craig Simmons, former local MP and Liberal Democrat Layla Moran and was chaired by Dr. Ken Amor.

The students asked very pertinent questions such as why it is taking such a long time for policy makers to act on the climate crisis and what incentives governments could offer those facing deprivation to engage with climate related issues.

Overall the project proved highly successful, as reflected in the some of the feedback from participants and parents:

‘Thank you so much for a brilliant series of workshops. My daughter has hugely enjoyed and benefited from it.  She is also now greatly involved with climate change and environmental activities at her school.  As well as the quality of the taught and shared learning, she has been aware that the course organisers have invested in her and the other participants.  What may ”just” be pizza and a bus pass has had a powerful impact and we all really appreciate it.’

 ‘I feel more optimistic and confident about climate action’

‘This has been really good for deepening my understanding’

 ‘I am going to speak out more (publicly) about climate change’

‘I am going to help enforce eco-friendly policy change in my school’

‘I am going to make sure friends and family understand the dangers and solutions to climate change’

‘We are the people who can help the world change’

‘Let’s do it again!’

Visit the website for more information.