Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Blade Nzimande, has welcomed the establishment of a new School of Climate Studies at Stellenbosch University, which will be officially launched in June later this year.
Nzimande said the establishment of an academic school focusing on climate change is a potentially promising step to enable the country’s academics and students to build a well-rounded body of scientific knowledge and skills to enable, not only a better understanding of the problems, but also sustainable responses to various new challenges facing humanity.
“Global humanity is currently faced with the fourfold crises of COVID-19; deepening economic crises; the crisis of families, household and communities to make ends meet and climate change,” Nzimande said in a statement.
He said the economic destruction of the earth’s biosphere and ecological systems in turn has created a crisis in human sustainability, with its most devastating effects felt by the working people and poor across the globe.
More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has acted as an accelerant on the widening gulf between rich and poor.
“I hope this will set a trend for our other universities and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges to establish similar initiatives focusing on various aspects of the multi-sectoral and multidimensional challenges and opportunities presented by climate change, and its interconnectedness with other social and natural phenomena.
“Government hopes that the university will collaborate with other higher education institutions, especially Historically Disadvantaged Institutions (HDIs), in promoting new scholarship to face new problems confronting current and future generations. Such collaboration is crucial as no single institution could possibly achieve this task on its own,” the Minister said.
The Ministry, for the first time, brings together higher education with science and innovation, thus presenting an opportunity to “enrich our understanding of the systemic issues rethinking and re-engineering to mitigate and adapt to the vagaries of climate uncertainty”.
According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and most of the scientific community, human activity has had definite causal effects on global warming and climate change, resulting in increasing temperatures, rising sea levels and a range of other impacts.
“This threatens every aspect of human endeavour, including water supply, infrastructure, public health, coastal habitats and food security, to mention a few. But we all know that the effects of climate change will be worse in poor and developing countries like our country, regardless of its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions,” Nzimande said.
He said all South African universities and TVET colleges must urgently plan their differentiated and collective contributions to help not only better understand climate change dynamics, but also to work towards changing the world for a better and more equal humanity.