Articles

Tarek Kapiel: The significance of scientific culture and education in raising awareness of the climate change

Academic, writer, translator, scientific editor, Assistant Professor, Botany and Microbiology Department, Faculty of Science, Cairo University, Giza, EGYPT.

It is well known that climate change poses serious threats to human civilization, and it appears that if we take full advantage of the occasion to host the United Nations Climate Change Conference “COP 27” in Egypt in the coming weeks, it will provide us with a beneficial opportunity to build a more sustainable future for the Egyptian people and to help educate students and the entire Egyptian society about this crucial subject.

Educational organizations and institutions must participate and contribute to raising awareness of the effects of climate change, and university communities must be aware of these risks.

Research on climate change in Egypt in the field of higher education, and scientific culture is very rare, so a research team from the Faculty of Science, Cairo University published two scientific papers to answer the following question: How can education related to climate change contribute to awareness to the phenomenon of climate change in Egypt?

The two studies tried to explore the relationships between universities and their complex interactions with society as well as the impact of education on climate change, presenting a brief conceptual map of the different functions of universities and the pathways through which they may affect climate change.

The authors provide recommendations to strengthen the environmental education system in Egypt after they discussed the educational measures related to climate change that leads to increasing Egyptian students’ awareness and participation in climate change issues and motivate the national interest to overcome climate challenges.

The results of two studies by a team of researchers from the Faculty of Science, Cairo University, in which Cairo University was taken as an example and a case study of the normative effects of the role of universities and higher education institutions to play their role in this regard, were discussed in two published papers.

The initial working paper was designed to explore the relationships between universities and their complex interactions with society as well as the impact of education on climate change; the second paper provided a conceptual map of the different functions of universities and the pathways through which they may affect climate change.

The research team studied Cairo University as an example and as a case study of the normative effects of the role of universities and higher education institutions to play their role in this regard. Such studies provide a very important model that has been applied to Cairo University to identify the nature of knowledge of the seriousness of this problem and its importance for university workers, students, and other Egyptian society.

Initial survey

The first research deals with the pivotal role that scientific culture can provide to raise awareness of climate change and its various effects. It also surveyed the role of culture in adapting to modern climate change.

Due to the recent successive climate changes, the role of culture has increased in deepening our understanding and awareness of how to face and respond to the challenges facing us.

Organizational cultures are necessary to provide practical and appropriate solutions to address global climate change by influencing the formation of goals, maximizing success factors, and scientifically evaluating them.

This has led climate experts to recognize the importance of culture in simplifying, understanding, and addressing the effects of climate change through adaptation or mitigation policies while developing planning strategies, despite the lack of clear mechanisms for their application, particularly in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The survey based on previous studies to review the role of cultural risk theory in reducing the effects of environmental risks, climate change, and university awareness. The survey was distributed to a random sample of employees of Cairo University and some other Egyptian universities.

Statistical analysis of the results of the survey related to climate change and its relationship to culture highlighted a noticeable disparity according to the gender of the participating students and their colleges and universities.

The percentage of female students were 171 (81%), outperforming male students, and the participation of practical colleges was at the expense of the rest of the colleges, where the highest percentage of science students was 186 (88.2%); then agriculture students, six (2.8%); Followed by pharmacology students, four (1.9%); and the College of Education students, two (0.9%), while the participation rate of the remaining faculties combined was 13 (6.2%).

Participants agreed to 17 of the 28 questions and strongly agreed with 7 others, while several participants chose to be neutral on three questions.

The highest weighted average was for the question of adopting a policy to expand the use of solar energy instead of electric energy because of its benefits, such as reducing air pollution, reducing water use, reducing dependence on non-renewable energy sources, and improving human health.

Next came “A warmer climate is likely to increase the melting of polar ice, which will lead to an overall rise in sea level” and finally the answer to the question of reducing the consumption of disposable or single-use items (such as plastic bags, paper towels, and foods). While everyone agreed that over the next few decades, the climate would change equally around the world.”

Among the most prominent questions of the questionnaire: Are natural changes the main cause of climate change (such as changes in the intensity of solar radiation and volcanic eruptions), and will climate change equitably around the world during the next few decades?

Would eating more plant foods, reducing protein, and animal products for a diet rich in plants (such as meat, dairy, and eggs) solve this problem?

Second Study

The second study answered the question of how education related to climate change can contribute to awareness, initiatives, and work to pay attention to the phenomenon of climate change in Egypt.

A questionnaire was prepared based on previous studies and distributed to 305 employees, alumni, and students of the university.

Cairo University votes were selected from different faculties in different stages of analysis. The survey covered demographic information and a range of issues related to climate change and environmental intentions. Data were analyzed and demographic characteristics and other qualitative measures were presented in the form of numbers and percentages.

The working paper aims to explore the relationships between universities and their complex interactions with society as well as the impact of education on climate change; the paper provides a conceptual map of the various functions of universities and the pathways through which they may affect climate change.

We studied Cairo University as an example and as a case study of the normative effects of the role of universities and higher education institutions to play their role in this regard.

In this study, we aimed to answer four research questions using a survey to collect sociodemographic data and the opinions and perspectives of a group of Egyptian adults regarding global climate change and its effects on Egypt.

Survey results showed that women are more concerned than men about climate change a 2:1 ratio, and most of the participants were undergraduate students. The participants demonstrated a high awareness of climate change issues. However, survey respondents ranked climate change/global warming low on two different lists of pressing social issues in Egypt, and many respondents were not familiar with their country’s environmental policies; not many were aware of the global policies or initiatives taken by various organizations to reduce climate change/global warming.

The highest percentage of survey respondents heard about climate change from participating in environmental campaigns, and the highest percentage cited government agency information as the reason for their next actions regarding climate change. Voters had the most confidence in information about climate change from scientists and the least confidence in information from friends. The highest proportion of respondents believed that the government was responsible for combating climate change.

We conclude from the study that climate change education is not widespread in all education systems in Egypt, including its universities. However, over the past decades, there has been great concern about issues of climate change in Egypt. Allowing people to explore environmental issues in addition to solving these problems creates individuals who can make responsible decisions and take responsible actions successful climate change education in Egypt now needs not only to teach environmental issues; Rather, it requires a great effort from the education system and the media to get the message across to more Egyptians.

Climate change education increases people’s knowledge and awareness of the environment and its associated challenges; develops the skills and expertise needed to meet challenges; reinforces attitudes, motivations, and commitments to make informed decisions and take responsible actions to improve the environment. However, although climate change education helps deepen individuals’ understanding of environmental issues, such education in Egypt still consists only of providing students with some environmental facts and figures.

The US Environmental Protection Agency holds that environmental education should not only provide students with information related to environmental issues, according to which the formal education system in Egypt does not provide students with all the elements of environmental education.

However, Egypt struggles against many environmental issues, particularly those related to human interactions with the environment and natural resources. Given the intrinsic relationship between environmental protection and development and the fact that Egypt faces serious environmental issues, it has become necessary to educate the public about environmental issues in general and climate change in particular.

Effective environmental education is needed to provide students with what is required for long-term sustainability. Unfortunately, private information about this issue in Egypt is limited; however, in an interview study conducted by the American University among three public schools in three different cities, 90% of all students had poor knowledge of environmental issues. To address this shortage in public schools, the current curricula must be improved.

Conclusions and recommendations

We conclude from the results obtained that climate change education is not prevalent in all education systems in Egypt, including in its universities. However, over the past decades, there has been great concern about issues of climate change in Egypt. Allowing people to explore environmental issues in addition to solving these problems creates individuals who can make responsible decisions and take responsible actions.

Successful climate change education in Egypt now needs not only to teach environmental issues; rather, it requires a great effort from the education system and the media to get the message across to more Egyptians.

To address this shortage in public schools, the current curricula must be improved. We recommend that school systems add effective environmental courses and develop sound policies based on integrated systems.

All of these climate change educational actions will increase Egyptian students’ awareness and participation in climate change issues, and Egypt has an opportunity at COP27 to galvanize national interest in environmental and science journalism regarding steps the nation can take to address it.

Climate change education increases people’s knowledge and awareness of the environment and its associated challenges; develops the skills and expertise needed to meet challenges; It reinforces attitudes, motivations, and commitments to make informed decisions and take action

Responsible to improve the environment

We recommend that school systems add effective environmental courses and develop sound policies based on integrated systems. All these climate change-related educational actions will increase Egyptian students’ awareness and participation in climate change issues. Egypt has an opportunity at COP27 to stimulate national interest in environmental and science journalism regarding steps the nation can take to address them. Climate challenges in addition to learning from the experiences of climate change education in other countries to strengthen the education system in Egypt.

To educate students and the public more about this important topic, universities, as all institutions do, face clear and growing risks from climate disruption, and therefore, university communities must be aware of these risks. Addressing these risks can provide an opportunity to rejuvenate universities and prepare them for the twenty-first century to be safe, secure, and proactive in the face of climate change and to solve real-world problems.

We assess that universities play a critical role in combating climate change, but the complex and multifaceted nature of the issue presents challenges to the institution’s traditional operations. Since the guidelines for implementing climate change education are not yet commonly applied, higher education institutions can support efforts related to this.

To spread the scientific knowledge about climate change and create new programmes that address this issue, our research team has submitted a number of proposals to Cairo University and the Academy of Scientific Research. Recent studies emphasise that universities are essential in the battle against climate change; however, the issue’s intricacy and breadth provide obstacles to the institution’s conventional operations. Higher education institutions can support these initiatives because the guidelines for climate change awareness education are not yet widely utilized.

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