The Benefits and Downsides of Multidisciplinary Education Relating to Climate Change

  • Lino BriguglioEmail author
  • Stefano Moncada
Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)


In this paper we present a literature review about the need for education to promote an understanding of climate change and its impacts, and the merits of teaching climate change in a multidisciplinary approach. We also refer to the external and internal multiplier effect of multidisciplinary education. We report on the results of a survey carried out by the Climate Change Platform (The Islands and Small States Institute of the University of Malta hosts the Climate Change Platform (CCP), with the objective of facilitating collaboration between University entities and individual academics in order to foster teaching and research initiatives relating to climate change, as well as strengthening cooperation with climate research centres outside Malta. During its three years of existence, the CCP, fully cognizant that the analysis of climate change involves various disciplines, has taken measures to encourage multidisciplinary teaching and research at the University of Malta, with a focus on small island states, which according the IPCC fifth assessment report (WGII, Chap. 29) are highly vulnerable to the harmful impacts of climate change. The paper will describe the approach adopted by the CCP in its endeavour to involve various Faculties, Institutes and Centres at the University of Malta to collaborate in teaching and research on climate change issues.) of the University of Malta, among lectures who teach subjects directly associated with climate change. It transpires from the literature and from the University of Malta survey that multidisciplinary climate change education is very important, given the complexity and the interlinkages of this field of study, but it also has a number of downsides, mostly related to the coordination work that will be needed when various disciplines are involved and the fear that the students could find it difficult to cope with many satellite subjects. The main message that emerges from the literature, as well as from the results of our survey, is that although a multidisciplinary approach to the teaching of climate change education is highly desirable, its success depends on the extent to which it is well organised and suitably coordinated.


Education Climate change Education multiplier Multidisciplinarity University of Malta 


  1. Anderson A (2012) Climate change education for mitigation and adaptation. J Educ Sustain Dev 6(2):191–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bangay C, Blum N (2010) Education responses to climate change and quality: two parts of the same agenda? Int J Educ Dev 30(4):359–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Burroughs WJ (2007) Climate change: a multidisciplinary approach. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  4. Cordero EC, Todd AM, Abellera D (2008) Climate change education and the ecological footprint. Bull Am Meteor Soc 89(6):865–872CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. De Tombe D (2008) Climate change: a complex societal process; analyzing a problem according to the Compram methodology. J Organ Transform Soc Change 5(3):235–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Elliott DS, Levin SL, Meisel JB (1988) Measuring the economic impact of institutions of higher education. Res High Educ 28(1):17–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hamilton LC (2011) Education, politics and opinions about climate change evidence for interaction effects. Clim Change 104(2):231–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2014) Climate change 2014: synthesis report. In: Contribution of working groups I, II and III to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. IPCC, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  9. Kreuter MW, Christensen GM, Divincenzo A (1982) The multiplier effect of the health education risk-reduction program in 28 states and 1 territory. Public Health Rep 97(6):510Google Scholar
  10. Middleton BA (2011) Multidisciplinary approaches to climate change questions. In: Wetlands. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 129–136Google Scholar
  11. Mochizuki Y, Bryan A (2015) Climate change education in the context of education for sustainable development: rationale and principles. J Educ Sustain Dev 9(1):4–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Nowotny J, Dodson J, Fiechter S, Gür TM, Kennedy B, Macyk W, Baka T, Sigmundg W, Yamawakih M, Rahman KA (2018) Towards global sustainability: education on environmentally clean energy technologies. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 81:2541–2551CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Pirrie A, Hamilton S, Wilson V (1999) Multidisciplinary education: some issues and concerns. Educ Res 41(3):301–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Rhee J, Cordero EC, Quill LR (2010) Pilot implementation of an interdisciplinary course on climate solutions. Int J Eng Educ 26(2):391Google Scholar
  15. Riede M, Keller L, Oberrauch A, Link S (2017) Climate change communication beyond the ‘ivory tower’: a case study about the development, application and evaluation of a science-education approach to communicate climate change to young people. J Sustain Educ 12. Online publication retrieved from
  16. Santiago Fink H (2018) The multiplier effect: climate change, health and nature. Online publications retrieved from
  17. Shapiro Ledley A, Rooney-Varga J, Niepold F (2017) Environmental issues and problems. Sustain Solutions. Online publication retrieved from:
  18. Sterman JD, Sweeney LB (2007) Understanding public complacency about climate change: adults’ mental models of climate change violate conservation of matter. Clim Change 80:213–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Stern N (2007) The economics of climate change: the stern review. Cambridge University press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  20. Stevenson RB, Nicholls J, Whitehouse H (2017) What is climate change education? Curriculum Perspect 37(1):67–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Todd C, O’Brien KJ (2016) Teaching anthropogenic climate change through interdisciplinary collaboration: helping students think critically about science and ethics in dialogue. J Geosci Educ 64(1):52–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Tol RS (2018) The economic impacts of climate change. Rev Environ Econ Policy 12(1):4–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Trent J (2010) Understanding-climate-change-through-many-disciplines. Online publications retrieved from
  24. Uzzell DL (1999) Education for environmental action in the community: new roles and relationships. Camb J Educ 29:397–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Yen SH, Ong WL, Ooi KP (2015) Income and employment multiplier effects of the Malaysian higher education sector. Margin. J Appl Econ Res 9(1):61–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MaltaMsidaMalta
  2. 2.Institute for European Studies and Focal Point of the Climate Change Platform, University of MaltaMsidaMalta

Personalised recommendations