Why cli­mate change is an ed­u­ca­tion is­sue

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Cli­mate change af­fects us all, but we still are not act­ing as quickly as we should to ad­dress its causes, mit­i­gate the dam­age, and adapt to its ef­fects. Many peo­ple don’t un­der­stand the risks cli­mate change poses to global eco­nomic and so­cial struc­tures. And, sadly, many who do un­der­stand are dis­mis­sive of the far-reach­ing ben­e­fits a global shift to sus­tain­abil­ity and clean en­ergy would bring about.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Pew study, seven out of ten Amer­i­cans clas­si­fied as po­lit­i­cal in­de­pen­dents were not very con­cerned that cli­mate change would hurt them. Worse still, Yale Uni­ver­sity re­searchers re­cently found that 40% of adults world­wide have never even heard of cli­mate change. In some de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, such as In­dia, that fig­ure climbs to 65%.

These fig­ures are dis­cour­ag­ing, but they can be im­proved. The Yale study con­cluded that, “ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment tends to be the sin­gle strong­est pre­dic­tor of pub­lic aware­ness of cli­mate change.” By in­vest­ing in qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion, we can set the next gen­er­a­tion on the right path to ad­dress­ing this global prob­lem.

Ed­u­ca­tion and cli­mate ac­tion work to­gether in three ways. For starters, ed­u­ca­tion fills knowl­edge gaps. Un­der­stand­ing how cli­mate change is al­ready having an im­pact on one’s life can have prac­ti­cal ben­e­fits. This is es­pe­cially true for poor pop­u­la­tions that are most vul­ner­a­ble to crop fail­ures and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, such as land­slides and floods, caused by cli­mate change. Pop­u­la­tions that must re­build from scratch af­ter each new catas­tro­phe miss out on op­por­tu­ni­ties for rapid devel­op­ment. By un­der­stand­ing that their world is chang­ing – and that the like­li­hood of fu­ture dis­as­ters is in­creas­ing – these pop­u­la­tions can build re­silience and learn to adapt to the sud­den and slow stresses of a chang­ing cli­mate.

Sec­ond, ed­u­ca­tion chal­lenges ap­a­thy. Know­ing the mea­sures avail­able to ad­dress cli­mate change can open up vast op­por­tu­ni­ties for eco­nomic growth. Global in­vestors should be made to un­der­stand that sus­tain­able so­lu­tions can in­crease well­be­ing and cre­ate ad­di­tional eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. To take one ex­am­ple, in Niger, ed­u­ca­tion and im­proved farm­ing tech­niques helped dou­ble real farm in­comes for more than one mil­lion peo­ple, while restor­ing huge tracts of se­verely de­graded land. In the US, as of 2014, there were more jobs that de­pended on so­lar en­ergy than on coal min­ing.

Still, many peo­ple in­sist that im­ple­ment­ing mea­sures to mit­i­gate the ef­fects of cli­mate change is too costly to our cur­rent way of life. Ac­cord­ing to the Pew study, al­most seven out of ten peo­ple be­lieve that, given the lim­i­ta­tions of tech­nol­ogy, they would have to make ma­jor lifestyle changes. This does not have to be the case, and ed­u­ca­tion can chal­lenge the kind of skep­ti­cism that fore­closes op­por­tu­ni­ties for cli­mate-smart liv­ing.

Fi­nally, ed­u­ca­tion fur­nishes the tech­ni­cal knowl­edge needed to build a bet­ter fu­ture through in­no­va­tion – one that in­cludes clean and safe en­ergy, sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture, and smarter cities. Broad­en­ing ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion would lead to more home­grown in­no­va­tion – en­trepreneurs spot­ting op­por­tu­ni­ties to ad­dress lo­cal prob­lems. Glob­ally, we can­not rely on knowl­edge cen­tres such as Sil­i­con Val­ley or Ox­ford to de­velop a sil­ver bul­let to the cli­mate prob­lem. So­lu­tions may come from tech hubs, but they will also come from vil­lages and de­vel­op­ing cities, from farm­ers and man­u­fac­tures with vastly dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives on the world around them. And this will cre­ate a vir­tu­ous cy­cle. It is eas­ier for ed­u­cated peo­ple to mi­grate and in­te­grate into new so­ci­eties, shar­ing the knowl­edge they’ve brought with them.

For­tu­nately, younger gen­er­a­tions to­day are bet­ter ed­u­cated and more com­mit­ted to re­duc­ing their own car­bon foot­print than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions were. They are lead­ing the way and forc­ing us all to re­con­sider our own ac­tions. But we must broaden the avail­abil­ity of ed­u­ca­tion world­wide to en­sure that their ef­forts are not in vain.

In recog­ni­tion of ed­u­ca­tion’s im­por­tance, the govern­ment of Nor­way, un­der the vi­sion­ary lead­er­ship of Prime Min­is­ter Erna Sol­berg, has es­tab­lished the In­ter­na­tional Com­mis­sion on Fi­nanc­ing Global Ed­u­ca­tion Op­por­tu­nity, of which I am a mem­ber. We will meet this week in Oslo, and it is my hope that we will con­front the chal­lenges of our time and act on the knowl­edge that ed­u­ca­tion is the best prob­lem-solv­ing as­set we pos­sess.

Ad­dress­ing the dan­gers of cli­mate change is not only an ex­is­ten­tial im­per­a­tive; it is also an op­por­tu­nity to move to­ward a cleaner, more pro­duc­tive, and fairer path of devel­op­ment. Only an ed­u­cated global so­ci­ety can take the de­ci­sive ac­tion needed to get us there.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.