The climate change is wreaking devastation around the world with catastrophes like the melting of the arctic glaciers, wildfires in California, floods in Argentina, and droughts in South Africa.
A new report from the medical journal “The Lancet” states that climate change will pose one of the biggest threats to children‘s health worldwide. According to The Lancet, if the world fails to meet the commitments laid out in the Paris Agreement – which requires that the global average temperature increases well below 2 °C compared to pre-industrial levels – it will exacerbate severe health issues caused by infectious diseases, worsening air pollution, scorching temperatures and malnutrition.
Education is key to the global integrated framework of sustainable development goals. Education is at the heart of our efforts both to adapt to change and to transform the world within which we live. It is recognized as having one of the highest long-term returns on investment of all development goals. There is a need to rethink and broaden the notion of lifelong education. It should enable people to develop awareness of themselves and their environment.
Therefore it is imperative for all countries to co-create models that can educate the society, especially the young generation in schools. Educating those currently in schools about climate change can enable countries to shape and sustain future policy-making. It will trigger public debates which can bolster today’s policy-makers in taking vigorous actions now.
Earlier knowledge about the climate in schools was limited to environmental study books but now with the “Fridays For Future” movement, schoolchildren across the world are getting involved in hands-on campaigns and rallies. In August 2018, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg started skipping her school every Friday in order to protest outside the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm. Soon her initiative transformed into a mass movement involving more than 100,000 schoolchildren as well as students, teachers and parents across the globe.
As some of today’s schoolchildren will become tomorrow’s leaders, it is of paramount importance to make them aware of the intensity of the climate change in the coming years. After all, it should be their decision on what kind of climate they would like to live in. It is often noted that people with more wisdom are more inclined towards the environment and can influence the political class for policy initiatives that supports climate protection. This is vital in a way to reduce greenhouse gases and control emission levels.
According to the World Values Survey among 47 countries conducted between 2005 and 2008, the higher a person’s level of education, the more likely he or she will express concern for the environment. An analysis of the Global Warming Citizen Survey in the United States also showed that the higher a respondent’s education level, the greater is his or her activism in terms of policy support, environmental political participation and environment-friendly behaviour.
In November this year, Italian Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti announced to incorporate a mandatory course on climate change and sustainability in the public-school curriculum. There is a dire need for many other countries to introduce a mandatory subject on climate change in their school and higher education systems. Small steps like saving freshwater, avoiding plastic products, and planting more trees can help school children in understanding the larger issues of climate change in the future.
School education creates awareness to take responsibility for a greener and cleaner world. In developing countries, environmental degradation is happening at a rigorous pace due to a higher illiteracy rate and the low cost of living. Schools in such countries should focus on imparting knowledge on the benefits of renewable energy as most of these economies rely heavily on generating electricity through coal-fired power plants which create higher levels of pollution.
India is currently running the world’s largest renewable energy programme and is confident to achieve its climate goals. The developments are certainly encouraging for the youths. However, the country is also struggling with unexpected floods, long-lasting draughts and an increasing level of pollution. Education, however, is not a silver bullet as it is difficult to change attitudes and practices overnight. Therefore, educating people of all age groups should be supported by the global political leadership where a new sustainable development agenda should be designed with special emphasis on schools and colleges.