Opinion
Future of the Environment

How climate education can be used to address social and economic challenges

The image shows a group of children, illustrating the importance of climate education on their future

Climate education is crucial for the future of humankind and the planet. Image: Luis Antonio Ramirez Garcia

Luis Antonio Ramirez Garcia
Green Business Leader and Climate Activist, Sin Planeta B
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Future of the Environment

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  • The vast majority of countries have yet to put climate change on their formal education curriculums.
  • Climate education aims to integrate an environmental perspective into all human actions.
  • Sin Planeta B has proven that climate education can create the conditions necessary for the urgent social, environmental and economic transformations required to combat climate change.

An important outcome of COP26 was the Glasgow work programme on Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE). This promotes the integration of climate change learning in schools and other institutions providing formal education. The vast majority of countries are ignoring their promises to provide formal education on climate change, and very few have adequate coverage of it.

Climate education aims to integrate an environmental perspective into all human actions centred on the care and dignity of the individual. It puts the climate crisis at the forefront of the social and political agenda.

Sin Planeta B organized Regional Forums on Climate Education throughout Mexico in 2021. This project showed that climate education can create the conditions necessary for the urgent social, environmental and economic transformation required to combat climate change. It can also positively impact Mexico’s different agendas.

Climate education impacts many areas of society
Climate education impacts many areas of society. Image: Luis Antonio Ramirez Garcia

Climate education and gender equality

Although women are generally thought of as the biggest victims of climate change, they are also thought to be able to provide the most effective response to it. They are part of the most effective solution to the climate crisis at the household level, this is because they are typically responsible for managing the household and providing food. Yet, we cannot put all the responsibility for finding climate solutions on women, this will only lead to more inequality and place a further burden on them.

By providing and making climate change education available to girls and women, health, child survival, sexuality and sustainable development education can be increased. This ensures that climate change education directly benefits girls and women by creating a network of families and communities with the necessary tools to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

Climate education transforms economies

Among the problems that climate education addresses are the over-exploitation of natural resources by current economic systems. A linear production model has left a legacy of an unsustainable socio-economic system. Due to its vision of regenerating economic value in materials, reducing environmental damage and creating social benefits, the greener circular economy has gained popularity among politicians and businesses. Introducing climate education programmes across all levels of education will lead students to have more interest in sustainable projects and enterprises with positive socio-environmental impacts, taking the circular economy and sustainable development as reference concepts.

Climate education becomes an ally in national security

Besides posing a threat to the population, climate change also threatens the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a nation. The melting of the polar ice caps, for example, is contributing to sea levels rising, threatening coastal areas. In many parts of the world, climate change also contributes to migratory movements, which, in turn, can threaten state sovereignty and political relations between countries.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, over time there will be an increase in natural disasters, resulting in an increase in climate refugees and conflicts at borders. Implementing climate education, therefore, should help reduce climate migration and conflicts and boost national security, as it can assist in strengthening adaptation capacities to climate change, especially in areas that are more vulnerable to extreme weather events.

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Accomplishing energy efficiency with climate education

As the energy sector contributes heavily to greenhouse gas emissions, more energy professionals are needed to mitigate climate change. Educating children about climate change from an early age will lay the foundations for their professional development. Additionally, it is essential to understand where energy comes from so that households can make better use of it and adopt sustainable consumption patterns that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut costs on household energy bills. As a result, such spaces contribute to improving young people's employability and equity in the energy sector and help them see the importance of making the energy industry more decentralised, inclusive, and sustainable.

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Water access and public health through education

In the face of water stress and a rise in climate-related migration, it is crucial to plan and implement public policies regarding access to water. These instruments must focus on resilience, adaptation and the protection of human rights for all. To achieve this, climate education must incorporate adaptation and resilience related to food and consumption habits to facilitate the construction of more sustainable and resilient communities. As a result of such education, water stress will be countered and water management will be improved, making it more efficient and ensuring future generations are able to access clean, safe drinking water and sanitation, without compromising their health and well-being.

Furthermore, the education of children and young people and the link between climate change and health represents a priority axis for humankind. It ensures the health of the environment within which humanity develops.

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Why climate education?

The concept of climate education refers to a model of education that aims to combat environmental degradation and its direct consequences, not only for the environment but also for the economy and society. This addresses citizens' immediate and future needs while providing comprehensive training for future leaders.

The use of appropriate climate pedagogical tools can translate this awareness into local advocacy by working in the community on specific actions, including waste management, responsible water usage, and preservation of natural areas, as well as helping to achieve a country's Sustainable Development Goals.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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