Developed countries put profit over planet whereas the priority for developing economies is poverty reduction.
Climate change is a reality. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests a projected increase in global mean temperatures over the 21st century of between 1.1 to 6.4 degrees Celsius. The world must reduce greenhouse gas emissions especially those that cause artificial greenhouse effect such as nitrous oxide and methane. The Kyoto Protocol is an attempt to control greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate this temperature rise. Over the last two decades science has been abused to challenge this construct with high-consumptive societies unable to gear down lifestyles and rapidly growing economies wanting to relax standards to accommodate economic growth. It is a serious conundrum calling for desperate measures. The solution lies in raising awareness of the problem and its impact while ensuring that governments are aware of what citizens want. This would be the key role for education in the mitigation and adaptation to climate change and is possible only through a global campaign approach to education that necessitates a 360-degree approach with specific goals in mind.
Economic growth currently pursued across the world is clearly unsustainable, drawing hugely on natural resources. The world’s resources of oil, wood, water, land and the air we breathe are severely stressed. By 2050 consumption of minerals, ores and fossil fuels would double from current consumption per UNEP International Resource Panel Report of 2017. This fuels economic growth for an exploding population chasing the role model of a consumptive society. The use-and-throw culture promises a seriously debilitating long-term effect on the future of our planet leading towards an ecological apocalypse.
The world has already produced enough plastic to last another millennia. Yet, virgin plastic continues to be produced while 8 million tonnes of single-use plastic are dumped in oceans every year. Marine life is dying and our planet is negatively impacted with rising global warming. We need to stop this decline now. Change in global climate patterns is attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels that are also the root cause of the plastics and waste management problem. Education will play a huge role in changing mind-sets and how we approach the solution.
Education here does not refer only to formal systems but also the informal spread of learning through various platforms. Education that is not just limited to schools, colleges and other such establishments, but information sharing on a global scale that will provide knowledge and skills and bring about behavioural changes leading to responsible, sustainable production and consumption patterns that will positively impact society at large.
Economies should no longer be labelled capitalist or socialist but sustainable or non-sustainable. Manufacturers must be educated in the principle of ‘End Producer Responsibility’ whereby they take back all they have produced to recycle or reuse it. This will go a long way in mitigating climate change. The process of education must include “green budget” planning by governments at the macro and micro economic levels.
The world also needs to be educated on the six R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose, Reinvent and Refuse) of waste management.
People must learn how not to waste valuable resources, like water. Buckets should be used instead of hosepipes to clean cars. Water preservation makes the concept of showering redundant and bucket bathing popular once again. These wastages are a matter of common sense, which is most uncommon. Adaptation to climate change means anticipating its adverse effects and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. Quality education will help us think responsibly enabling out-of-the-box solutions and encouraging adaptation to environment friendly alternatives to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Sustainable practices can be imbibed through proper education at all levels of society and stages of life, through multiple platforms.
Education on climate change will inculcate a new spirit of enquiry in the fields of science and economics, with the vision of creating a sustainable planet. Education is the backbone of innovation. Transportation is a key impact area. Cars must use renewable energy sources. Sustained awareness campaigns will encourage people to think about the planet over profit and convenience. They will prefer using public transport, car-pooling and bicycles. Once ‘Right to Healthy Living’ and safeguarding the planet for future generations becomes the demand of the people, governments will no longer be able to ignore the issue. Serious re-education of governments about the dangers of climate change on our planet will play a vital role in mitigating climate change and ensuring swift adaptation to sustainable methods of life and economic growth.
It is imperative to integrate into our education system issues of disaster management, environmental and climate change with an aim to increase climate literacy of the youth.
Decades of misinformation and data manipulation on causes of climate change can be stopped only through education. Investing in quality education to fight climate change is essential to achieving the UN sustainable development goals. Leveraging education, as an important tool for climate change mitigation and adaptation is the need of the hour to save the planet – the only home mankind has.
A Student, Youth Eco-warrior against single-use plastics.
Volunteer intern at the NGO Chintan & volunteered at UNDP India