An education in Climate Action at UBC

November 14, 2022
Dr. Tara Ivanochko (credit: Junyi Sun)

In September 2019, nearly 100,000 Vancouverites walked out of their offices, workspaces, and classrooms to join the climate strike. Just prior to the city-wide march, an estimated 4,000 - 5,000 students and faculty assembled for a UBC climate strike to demand climate action from the University leaders with a focus on climate justice. The movement ultimately led to the university declaration of a climate emergency and a resolution to offer courses explicitly centering climate education. 

EOAS Professor Tara Ivanochko heard this call to action and began building an interdisciplinary course list together with Professors Jessica Dempsey and Nina Hewitt of the Dept. of Geography and a number of full time student consultants. Thus, the Climate Action and Studies certificate program was born. The 18 credit certificate program focuses on issues of climate science literacy, climate justice, and community building. The program, which was designed to be accessible to as many students as possible, offers an interdisciplinary climate education with courses across science, arts, forestry, and nursing disciplines. In fact, Dr. Ivanochko says one of the most surprising challenges the program has faced is that demand for the certificates is currently exceeding its 60 student capacity. 

Each week students participate in two climate action labs. The action labs have two components: 1) students work in teams on real-world climate issues with outside collaborators, and 2) students reflect on their own climate action and involvement. This year, students are working in groups of four alongside the City of Vancouver to educate Vancouverites on the most effective ways they can reduce their carbon footprint. The City has found that although 88% of citizens are concerned about the climate, only 6% were able to correctly identify central heating and hot water as the greatest sources of carbon in Vancouver. Through this city engagement project, students have the chance to further develop partnerships with the City of Vancouver’s climate action team. In the future, students may continue to work with the city, taking on new challenges to contribute to the city’s climate action. Meanwhile, Professor Ivanochko is continuing to adapt the program so it may take more students in the future, as demand for climate education increases.