DESPITE decades of research into climate change, the University of Newcastle believes it is the first Australian tertiary education institution to offer an undergraduate degree in the subject, at least by name.
As we are reporting, the university has pulled the covers off a new offering for 2021, a Bachelor of Climate Science and Adaption - a three-year course focused on the environmental aspects of climate change.
Alongside the core subjects, students will be offered more than a dozen elective "pathways" - including communications, legal studies, maths, politics, psychology and public health - that the university says will prepare its graduates for a similarly broad spectrum of climate-related careers.
Even if many - or even all - of the subject choices have been available in other environmentally based courses, promoting a degree with "climate science" in its title sends an unmistakable signal about the course, and about the university itself.
READ Matthew Kelly's news report here
For all of the efforts in rebranding itself as a "smart city", Newcastle and the broader Hunter Region remain closely linked with the arch enemy of climate advocates, the coal industry.
The Newcastle Herald continues to voice support for coalmining, but we recognise that renewable energy must replace the burning of fossil fuels if we are to curb and then reverse the human-induced increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide.
If the Hunter is to capitalise on the renewables revolution, it needs its smartest young minds educated in the field.
This degree is a potentially critical step in driving that momentum.
Even so, there are risks.
The university had a well-regarded Bachelor of Fine Arts degree until 2017 when it was controversially replaced with a Bachelor of Creative Industries.
Earlier this month the university was forced to announce that the new degree was ending, for want of enrolments.
That should not be the case here, but it does serve as a warning.
If the new Bachelor of Climate Science and Adaption course lives up to its promise, it will help a new generation of climate-conscious students to turn their ideals into jobs.
It should also help to attract renewables sector employers, and remind the nation that there's more to Newcastle and the Hunter than coal, and coal-fired power stations.
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