CLIMATE change is an unquestionable reality that is already having a profound impact on the environment with severe economic implications.
Scientists have been unanimous in their pronouncements about the negative consequences of climate change, with study after study confirming what we already know and what we need to do about it.
We continue to see an upsurge in extreme weather events and associated natural disasters. The hottest temperatures on record have been recorded in many parts of the world in the last year alone. The predictions of melting ice caps are now a reality. The only changes in the scientific forecasts seem to be the increased rate of climate change.
Many countries have been witnessing loss of soil fertility and declining production of staple foods, threatening the world’s capacity to feed itself. Many traditional farmlands have suffered from declining production due to increased drought conditions on the one hand and flooding on the other. The rate of desert expansion continues to increase, forcing the mass migration of millions of people.
From fires in Siberia to flooding in Asia, the signs are ominous. Climate change is real and decisive action is necessary on the part of the global community.
According to the scientific community, if we don’t take decisive action to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century or sooner, global average temperatures will increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The combined impact of this change could drive over 122 million people into poverty by 2030 or the displacement of approximately 200 million people by 2050.
The impact of rising sea levels could have disastrous consequences, especially for small island states as have been witnessed in many islands in the South Pacific.
Coral reefs are already showing signs of destruction due to rising sea temperatures. This could translate to, among other things, reduction in fisheries supplies.
Unfortunately, the impact of climate change will be most severe on developing countries, their economies being most fragile and susceptible.
We are certainly in the midst of an environmental emergency, with politicians, especially in the developed world, seemingly unwilling to accept scientific fact, putting the immediate economic welfare of the wealthy ahead of the interest of the global community.
The continued refusal by leaders of some of the world’s largest economies to take urgent and decisive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions remains one of the world’s biggest political challenges.
Education must be one of the potent and effective weapons to combat climate change and save the planet from continued degradation, both social and environmental. In terms of adaptation, education helps people to better understand and respond to environmental issues and reduce vulnerability to their effects.
Evidence suggests that if educational progress stagnates, the number of victims of natural disasters could increase by 20 per cent over the next decade. However, universalising secondary education by 2030 could prevent approximately 200,000 deaths from natural disasters over the coming 20 years.
Education is the best tool to teach the public to be aware of the causes and consequences of climate change and other environmental issues, providing people with the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to seek solutions, change consumption patterns and transform society.
In short, education is the only tool to radically alter the unsustainable consumption patterns and economic model that have led to the spiral of social and environmental destruction in which we currently find ourselves.
Education must reform to accommodate the need to transform lifestyles, ensuring that sustainable development is not merely a cliche or term to be understood by intellectuals. People must understand that the planet they occupy cannot sustain current consumption and pollution patterns.
All children must be imbibed with a passion to ensure that the future generations cannot be burdened with social, economic and environmental debts. The welfare of future generations cannot be jeopardised by our greed and selfishness.
We all have the right to live in a more sustainable world within the limits of our planet. This is the commitment expressed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Schools and teachers the world over must understand the basic premise and undertakings enshrined in this agenda and its implications for our very existence.
With such understandings they must utilise every means available to ensure that children are imbibed with the knowledge and conviction to secure future generations’ welfare.
Education must play a key role in these much needed individual and collective changes to our mentality, behaviours and lifestyles. The time to act is now; our future is at stake.