What will a Carbon Literacy course teach me?

Carbon Literacy

Every Carbon Literacy course will explore ways participants can reduce their impact on the climate and, crucially, all the benefits of doing so and how to communicate this to others. Your Carbon Literacy course is designed to focus on positivity and the opportunities we have to improve, rather than the negativity and fear that’s so often associated with climate in the media.

Beyond that, the content and structure of most Carbon Literacy coursess will roughly go as follows:

Table of contents

Table Of Content
carbon literacy course training

Introduction to Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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First, the science. The first section of every Carbon Literacy training course acts like a basic primer for climate science. You’ll learn about the Greenhouse Effect, the six main greenhouse gases, and why ‘carbon dioxide equivalent’ (or ‘carbon’ for short) is used as the global standard when we talk about climate change.

Next, you’ll learn a bit about how carbon emissions have increased since the Industrial Revolution. This is always an important moment, because the speed and scale by which humans have changed the planet is laid bare. Did you know, for example, that in just over 200 years the amount of carbon dioxide for every million particles in Earth’s atmosphere has increased by half!

Most courses will then map out the increase in carbon dioxide alongside the increase in global average temperatures, making it clear that the two are linked. A good training programme will also give you a quick summary of climate models to demonstrate how we know for certain that the climate is changing and that this change is as a result of human influence.

Climate Impact

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With the climate science explained and made clear, your Carbon Literacy course will pivot to talking about what all this actually means. This generally starts with the physical impacts of climate change locally and globally (sea-level rise, flooding, forest fires, droughts, storms and other extreme weather events) before looking at the human implications.

Human impact

The human part of this story is really crucial.

When you think about climate change, one of the images that probably crops up in your head is a polar bear, right?

That’s because the plight of polar bears has been drilled into us as a big emotive call to action. But, to be honest, this sort of imagery doesn’t work that well. We of course wish polar bears all the best, but if we want to motivate action we should be focusing on issues that are relatable and important to the people we’re speaking to.

In other words, we need to look at climate impacts from a human-centric approach.

Business Impact

When working with businesses at Litmus, we do this through a focus on climate risk and interactive activities that help learners to identify what the risks are to their business. This could be physical risks linked to a changing climate, or the implications of that changing climate through things like policy changes, financial investments, changing customer demands and resource scarcity.

This section of your course should also look at issues of fairness and equity – the disparity between how different people, communities or nations are being affected by climate change. The key here is to build empathy for vulnerable groups and future generations.

The sad truth of climate change is that those who produce the least amount of carbon are typically those who are most at risk to climate impacts (if you’re reading this in the UK and thinking about Carbon Literacy training, you’re probably well inside the top 10% of the highest carbon emitters worldwide!).

To compound matters, improving the quality of life for everyone on the planet, or even just eradicating poverty, will likely lead to more carbon emissions as economies develop. That means the onus is on us, in wealthier parts of the world, to do our best to support this economic development sustainably, while taking responsibility for our significant historical carbon emissions.

For businesses like yours and ours, that means recognising our influence on these issues and finding ways of operating that decouple our activities from the production of greenhouse gases.

Changing Patterns

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At this point, you’ll have a good understanding of climate science and the scale and urgency for change required. However, this is all rather depressing stuff, even though we try to keep the doom and gloom to a minimum. It’s therefore important to focus on what we can do as individuals and businesses to affect real change. The key thing to hold onto is that every fraction of a degree of warming matters. There isn’t a point where we ‘lose’ the battle on climate change, unlike some might tell you. Every action matters.

At this stage of your Carbon Literacy course, the topic of carbon accounting is usually introduced. You’ll explore personal carbon footprints and look at different methods to reduce one’s carbon footprint across different categories (e.g. food, travel, energy).

Your training should also cover the many climate policy commitments in place at the global, regional, national, and local level. This is a really helpful mechanism for understanding how international commitments trickle down to affect your business and individual life.

Taking Action after your Climate Literacy course

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With the scene successfully set, your Carbon Literacy course steps into its final phase by looking at what we can all do differently. This section can differ quite significantly depending on the target audience. If training is being delivered to a general audience of individuals, for example, the course will typically focus on individual carbon footprints and the identification of actions that people can take to reduce those impacts. This includes the identification of ‘group actions’ through which we can influence the emissions of others.

When working with businesses, and business leaders and decision-makers in particular, as we often do at Litmus, we move on to explore changes and innovations at the corporate level. These can take many forms depending on your industry and capabilities, be it switching to a renewable energy provider or understanding the impacts of a car-sharing scheme.

This area is where our Climate Jams really come into their own. Whilst changes like renewable energy and car-sharing are useful for decarbonisation, we can go much further. Indeed, given the realities of climate science you’ll have learnt earlier in your training, we must go further.

Our Jams guide participants through a series of specially-designed activities designed that encourage them to radically reorganise their business by thinking innovatively and creatively through specific problems. We then use a proven methodology to identify and prioritise climate actions as a business, just as you’ll have done on the individual level beforehand.

Carbon Literacy Course Certification

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By placing these individual, group, and business actions together, you’ll now have everything you need to complete the certification process and obtain your Carbon Literacy course certificates.

Meet the author

Laurence Adams
November 30, 2023
Laurence is a sustainability and communications expert who has been working with businesses on climate communications and strategy since 2014. Laurence will help you design a winning climate strategy that not only improves your business, but influences others to follow your lead.