EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has announced that students at two of the nation’s top public universities will have to take courses on climate change at least through the end of the school year.
McCarthy told the Associated Press that she believes the coursework will be “effective and important” in encouraging students to “evaluate and consider their actions.”
But the administration also said that students can choose to take any course they wish.
McCarthy also said she has asked the Department of Education to consider the possibility of requiring that students take climate coursework that’s available on campus.
McCarthy said in her announcement that she’s looking for “the best” climate change coursework at the colleges that can help students understand the “complex and challenging” problems of global warming and how to help mitigate it.
McCarthy’s announcement comes after a series of controversial moves by EPA officials to restrict access to climate-related courses on the federal government’s campus.
Last week, McCarthy ordered schools to stop accepting federal funds for the courses, and she said in a statement last week that the actions were a “disaster for taxpayers and students.”
The decision sparked a backlash from students who argued that the course work would lead students to question the science of climate change.
Students have said they’ve been pressured to take the courses for political reasons, and they have also said they are scared of being labeled as climate-change deniers if they don’t take the course.
But McCarthy defended the move, saying it was meant to be a “fair and appropriate balance” between public health and environmental protection.
“We are working with our partners to provide guidance and advice to schools that will ensure that students have the tools they need to understand the climate challenge and to respond to it,” McCarthy said.
“As the Administrator, I believe that it is our responsibility to make sure that we can educate students, both at our colleges and at our university campuses, so that they understand the impacts of climate disruption on the lives of all Americans.”
The courses will be taught by faculty at the University of Alabama and the University at Albany, both of which receive federal funding for climate change programs.
McCarthy has also ordered that all colleges and universities that receive federal funds to set aside 20 percent of their budgets for climate-education programs, with the remaining funds allocated to climate education programs.
The EPA said the “current climate is changing rapidly,” and the courses will help students “better understand how that changing climate affects the lives and communities around the country.”
McCarthy also noted that “it is my belief that students will find the courses valuable and helpful in preparing them for a challenging climate change future.”
The EPA’s announcement follows a string of recent moves by the Trump administration to curb the access to science-based information on the public university level.
On April 3, the administration sent a letter to all colleges that receive funds from the U.S. Department of Energy asking them to deny students from receiving federal funds from climate-science programs from the 2020 through 2022 academic years.
The letter noted that the department has a “significant interest in promoting climate literacy,” and that “there is significant scientific uncertainty about climate change and its causes.”
The White House has also been pushing to limit the access of universities to scientific information, as part of its broader push to “reinforce our global leadership on climate and environmental issues.”
A new report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute found that universities receive a mere $1.4 billion in federal funds annually for climate science.
The report found that in addition to this funding, more than half of the universities receiving federal funding from the department have been forced to cut climate science programs.