Climate Change Education

Article Written by Tetsuya Tanaka


Over the last few decades, the scientific community has reported numerous abnormal environmental phenomena across the planet such as global temperature rise, sea level rise, decline of arctic sea ice, ocean acidification, glacial retreat and so on. Climate change has now become the biggest, and arguably an existential threat to global society. In 2015, President Barack Obama emphasized the need for immediate action: “We’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, we’re the last generation that can do something about it. We only get one home. We only get one planet. There’s no plan B.”


Overwhelming numbers of scientists identify the cause of climate change as due to human activities including industrial productions, aerospace industry, automobiles industry and so on. In fact, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have stated in their report that: “it is unequivocal that climate change is occurring and confirms that there is at least 95% certainty that human activities are the principal cause.” Immediate actions are needed to mitigate the effect of climate change as much as possible. Human selfishness created the problem, now we have the responsibility to solve the problem.


One of the most effective solutions that experts and politicians have proposed is climate change education. Climate change education is defined as an education system designed to educate the younger generation of the ramification of climate change, and how to effectively respond to the situation. This solution is extremely effective, because it increases the “climate literacy” among young children, allowing students to gain a deeper understanding and take action on climate change.


Climate experts have long recognized education as an effective way to address and fight against climate change. Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” In addition, the United Nations has also published an article titled “Education is Key to Addressing Climate Change.” Education of future generations is the key to contend with climate change. The younger generations are the ones who will be governing the world in the future. The old of each generation determine the future of the world, but it is the young who will actually live in it. And we must fight for it. Effectively educating students will allow them to fight against the threat more effectively and successfully.


Despite the clear need, the United States has fallen behind among the developed nations. According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 29 out of 50 states require the teaching of climate change. Astoundingly, 12 of the states have actually proposed to remove climate change education from their curricula. Nearly 60 percent of the teachers have responded that currently none of the climate change content is administered in their K-12 classrooms.


In contrast, the Brookings Institution has identified strong public support (students, teachers and parents) for implementing climate change education to the classroom. The report highlights that in the U.S., 80 percent of parents and 86 percent of teachers believe that climate change should be taught in the class.


This demonstrates an important disconnect between public support and political reticence. Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus, a portion of the politicians still do not believe that climate change is real. A notable example is former president Donald Trump, who has claimed that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese in order to damage the U.S. industry.


While the politicians are fighting over the existence of climate change, the situation is worsening day by day. A recent report by the IPCC has discovered that the climate change impacts are worse than expected. Actions need to be taken immediately, especially the implementation of climate change education. The United States is tasked with the challenge, and indeed the moral responsibility, for addressing the biggest threat in human history, and cooperation between Republicans and Democrats is indispensable for addressing climate change. We are no longer at the stage of debating the existence of climate change. We are not only taking away our home from ourselves, but also the home of all the living species on the planet. They only get one home, and so do we. We must act right now, time(climate change) will not wait for us. As Obama stated, “We only get one home.” It’s time to act like it.

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