Climate change agenda creates fresh career opportunities across higher education, reports Tony Tysome
A "green" jobs bonanza is coming as the academic workforce takes on the pressing challenges of tackling climate change issues, experts predicted this week.
The leaders of a new Government-backed project involving nine universities, which is seeking environmentally friendly solutions to problems facing the aviation industry, are predicting that the green agenda will soon become a dominant force in creating fresh career opportunities across higher education.
The £5 million Omega project, which is expected to spawn dozens of new fellowships every year, is just one example of the kinds of programmes that are likely to multiply over the next one or two decades, they say.
It is a development that is expected to draw academics together from across a huge range of disciplines to work in teams on research that some argue is vital to the future of the planet.
Omega chief executive Roger Gardner, who is based at Manchester Metropolitan University's Centre for Air Transport and Environment, said: "Our first objective is to enhance the sustainability of aviation. The way we go about that is to get the whole of the academic sector to raise its game in relation to environmental issues."
Omega has launched a series of targeted studies looking into issues including the reduction of aviation carbon emissions, green travel policies for business travellers and projections for growth in the aviation industry.
Seventeen fellows have been recruited by Omega so far, with eight more to follow in October. Mr Gardner said: "That is only the second tranche of people we are bringing in. Omega is here for the long term, and we will be continually drawing in and expanding expertise."
Jonathan Kohler, senior research associate in land economy at Cambridge University who is heading the economics strand of Omega, said developments such as the Economic and Social Research Council's plans to create a multimillion-pound climate change research centre were bound to mean more new academic posts. He said: "There is a whole raft of higher education that is now being funded to investigate aspects of climate change in particular."
Ian Poll, professor of aerospace engineering at Cranfield University, which is leading the technology stream of the project, said higher education was "ideally suited" to take on the big questions around climate change because it was able to take an independent view of the issues and bring many types of expertise to bear.
Omega was demonstrating how the green agenda is set to open up new avenues of academic inquiry, potentially generating more jobs than any other research theme, he argued.
"It might be interesting to speculate about what percentage of our intellectual horsepower will be devoted to environmental issues in 25 years' time. My guess is that it could be as high as 50 per cent," he said.