The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, welcomes the launch of the School of Climate Studies at Stellenbosch University, which will be officially opened in June 2021.

The establishment of an academic school focusing on climate change is a promising step to enable our academics and students to build a well-rounded body of scientific knowledge and skills, enabling not only a better understanding of the problems, but also sustainable responses to a new horizon of challenges facing humanity.

Global humanity is currently faced with the crisis of COVID-19; deepening economic crisis; the crisis of families, households and communities to make ends meet; and climate change, Minister Nzimande said.

Minister Nzimande said that climate change is one of four crises of the early 21st century, the roots of which, he believes, are located in the dominant global economic system, notably, neoliberal capitalism. Climate change, he contends, is causally connected with centuries of extractive and destructive forms of economic development, with its most voracious contemporary expression, neo-liberal capitalism, now in deep crisis.

Economic destruction of the earth's biosphere and ecological systems has in turn created a crisis in human sustainability, with its most devastating effects felt by the working people and poor across the globe. More recently, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has acted to accelerate the widening gulf between rich and poor. These four crises have come to signal a modern-day version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

"I hope this will set a trend for our other universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges to establish similar initiatives focusing on various aspects of the multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional challenges and opportunities presented by climate change and its inter-connectedness with other social and natural phenomena," said Minister Nzimande.

Minister Nzimande said government hopes that Stellenbosch University will collaborate with other higher education institutions, especially historically disadvantaged institutions, in promoting new scholarship to face new problems confronting current and future generations. Such collaboration, in Minister's view, is crucial as no single institution could possibly achieve this task on its own.

"Our Ministry, for the first time, brings together higher education, science and innovation, thus presenting a magnificent opportunity to enrich our understanding of the systemic issues, and rethinking and re-engineering to mitigate and adapt to the vagaries of climate uncertainty.

Minister Nzimande said that according to the International Panel on Climate Change and most of the scientific community, human (anthropogenic) 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, South Africa, regardless of its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions," said the Minister.

"Nonetheless, it is our duty, for the sake of future generations, to slow down the rate of global climate warming."

Minister Nzimande believes that all South African universities and TVET colleges should urgently plan their differentiated and collective contributions to help us not only to a better understanding of climate change dynamics, but also to work towards changing the world for a better and more equal humanity.

Issued by:

Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation

Building 53, CSIR Campus

Meiring Naudé Road

Brummeria

Pretoria

Enquiries: Ishmael Mnisi 066 037 8859