SQA accused of teaching benefits of climate change

The national exams body has come under fire from environmentalists for teaching the ‘positives’ of climate change in the curriculum – such as better weather bringing more tourists to northern countries such as Scotland.

Climate change protestors outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Picture: Press Association
Climate change protestors outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Picture: Press Association

The Scottish Qualification Authority’s (SQA) course specification states that the pros and cons of climate change should be given equal weight in the National 5 Geography course. The document goes as far as listing alleged benefits of global warming such as ‘increased tourism to more northerly latitudes’ and ‘improved crop yields’. These examples are used in numerous textbooks available for the course.

A new report released this week confirmed that climate breakdown is set to cost the greater Glasgow area alone in excess of £400 million per year in damage by 2050.

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Scottish Greens education spokesman Ross Greer said: “Asking students to list benefits of the climate crisis is like asking them to think of all the exciting opportunities that come from their house burning down. Boosting tourism will hardly be our priority when half a billion climate refugees need a permanent home in cooler northern countries like Scotland over the coming decades. Yet again, Scotland’s exams authority has some serious questions to answer.

“Hosting the COP26 climate summit later this year will offer Scotland the chance to drive change. It means young people can hope to see the solid action that is so urgently needed delivered right on their doorstep. In that context, the absolute absurdity of the SQA claiming an upsurge in tourism is a benefit of climate change is not only deeply inappropriate, but downright depressing.”

Caroline Rance, Friends of the Earth Scotland climate campaigner, said: “In recent years young people have lead the charge for the necessary climate action due to the failure of those in power to adequately respond. They have often spoken out about the lack of education in schools about the climate crisis and its devastating impacts for people around the world.

“There is no positive spin to put on the climate emergency and those designing this curriculum clearly need to go back to school on this crucial issue.”

The SQA is set to be scrapped following a damning report criticising the organisation by the OECD. Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said last week that within six months there would be a “detailed plan” to replace the SQA.

A spokesperson for the SQA said: “SQA has worked with a wide range of external partners as part of its commitment to embedding Learning for Sustainability across all its qualifications. In preparing students for the wider world it is important that they develop and employ critical skills. Analysing and evaluating a variety of views is essential to critical thinking.”

The criticism of the SQA’s curriculum came as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stressed Scotland’s commitment to making sure people across the world benefit from a just transition to net zero.

Speaking at the Austrian World Summit on a panel including climate activist Greta Thunberg and UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall, the First Minister said that the world must seize its chance to tackle the climate crisis fairly at UN climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow.

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