The role of publishing in tackling the climate catastrophe


Climate change continues to be at the forefront of many of our minds—not least because Earth Day on April 22—an annual event focus on driving awareness and action around climate change—is fast approaching. News about the environment and the challenges facing it are rarely out of the headlines. Indeed, the Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres recently warned that we were sleepwalking to a climate catastrophe,’ as global emissions continue to increase at an alarming rate. 

Such a significant issue requires collaboration and a global response. It requires individuals and organizations alike to consider the areas that are within their control to change. I have previously spoken about the steps OUP as an organization is taking to reduce its impact on the environment. We, like many others in our position, are actively taking the time to understand our impact worldwide and implement strategies to reduce it in the long-term.

But there is another piece of the puzzle where I believe OUP plays a crucial role in the battle against climate change: generating understanding around the topic through our education and research resources. One of the ways that we are doing this is by bringing together our communities to explore the matter so that collectively, we can drive change.

Earlier this month, our ELT division ran the world’s largest online English Language Teaching conference, ELTOC 2022. ELTOC is a virtual conference for teachers, aimed at supporting teachers’ development and understanding, and subsequently improve the learning experience for students. Now taking place once a quarter, each ELTOC event has a different, relevant theme—and the focus for the first event of 2022 was climate action and digital learning.

As Harry Walter—one of the conference speakers, and a teacher at Renewable English—said, ‘it is becoming increasingly important that today’s language teachers are well-equipped to teach and communicate on an issue that will continue to be one of our biggest challenges as a society.’

Whatever the context in which people are learning, it will be much more effective if it is relevant to the world around us, and the problems we face. This is something that was reinforced by our recent global research into the future of science education; it highlighted that currently, science education isn’t fit for the future, largely because it doesn’t adequately teach students about climate change.

I’m pleased that, at OUP, we continue to look for ways to create content and resources that aren’t just relevant and informative, but that generate conversation on topics that really matter. And I’m proud that these resources span all areas of our business.

Aside from ELTOC, we consistently look for opportunities to explore climate change through our educational and reading resources. As a signatory to the SDG Publishers Compact, we have made a commitment to raise awareness about social and environmental issues through our content.

For example, our series, Max Takes a Stand, follows the adventures of Max as he strives to save the planet. Additionally, our newer ELT courses have an increased focus on climate action, building on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The courses aim to engage students around solutions to climate change, while helping them to learn the relevant language on the topic. And the Oxford English Dictionary team recently put together lesson plans and worksheets to help teachers to effectively teach about the language of climate change, as well as working with the British Council on a new podcast series around the climate crisis and language education.

In our Academic division, last year we launched Oxford Open Climate Change—an interdisciplinary journal that covers all aspects of climate change; its impact on our world, as well as solutions to the problem. We also publish a title on the subject as part of our What Everyone Needs to Know series, providing insights into the science of climate change and its implications.

These are just a handful of examples of how else we are committing to tackle climate change. Because while we know we have a responsibility as an organization to reduce our environmental impact, we recognize the broader role we play in helping others to understand the issue. The more we can inform, inspire, and share knowledge, the more we can hope to contribute to tackling the climate catastrophe.