‘Sickie’ certificate signed by climate scientists supports striking students

The publication of a Climate Doctor's Certificate supports Australian school students to attend this Friday's School Strike 4 Climate action.

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Need a doctor’s certificate to take a day off to attend the national School Strike 4 Climate student protests this Friday, 17 November? A purpose-written letter is now available to download online.

The scientists behind the publication of the Climate Doctor’s Certificate encourage school students around Australia to certify ‘I’m taking a sick day for a sick planet’. The mock medical certificate is signed by professors from two leading Australian universities and enables students to indicate a “major climate health concern” prevents them from being in the classroom.

The certificate says strikers are suffering symptoms of “feelings of despair”, “elevated stress” and “increased anxiety”. As a remedy, it offers the doctor’s recommendation that they “take a sick day to protest for a sick planet”.

Australian scientists signed their support

University of Melbourne and Australian National University (ANU) climate scientists Professor David Karoly and Dr Nick Abel have signed off on the certificates, with Dr Abel telling media he was motivated to support school-aged activists because of guilt he feels about the “tonnage of greenhouse gases” his generation will leave behind.

- Advertisement -

“I’m incredibly enthused by the initiative of the Climate Medical Certificate and hope it helps ensure more students can take action and attend the rallies,” he said.

Although acceptance of the certificate will be at schools’ discretion, Dr Abel said he hopes putting his name to it will encourage schools to support the climate action.

Protesting is valid form of education

On Tuesday morning, former CSIRO chief research scientist and University of Melbourne academic Dr Karoly spoke with Victoria’s top-rating 3AW radio presenter and journalist Neil Mitchell.

“We are living through a climate emergency, and we need more action to try to limit the impacts of climate change – not only now but in the future as well,” he said.

- Advertisement -

“That action needs to be taken by the students’ parents and grandparents and the governments in Australia.”

While Dr Karoly acknowledged it’s up to schools to decide what to do in response to a student who might show them the letter, he believes the Climate Doctor’s Certificate should be taken seriously, “because there is scientific evidence for the impact of climate change now.”

“Obviously, you have your opinions on that,” he told Neil Mitchell. “You’re welcome to them.”

Learning in the field is vital, says scientist

In response to being told the state’s education minister advised children and families that normal requirements for school attendance apply this Friday, Dr Karoly said “that doesn’t surprise me at all”.

“One of the things that’s critically important in education at schools is to give the children opportunities to learn from field trips and, in practice, educational opportunities for experiencing non-violent demonstrations,” Dr Karoly said.

- Advertisement -

He described attending peaceful rallies and protests as “a way of learning about democracy in Australia”.

“They will learn more by going on this sort of demonstration than spending one more day in class.”

Share This Article
Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live