By Anne T. Sulton, Ph.D., J.D.
JA Senior International Correspondent
Formed in 2018, the Global Center on Adaptation is a diverse group of world leaders working on climate change issues. Among the 23 convening countries are Argentina, Canada, Ethiopia, Grenada, Netherlands, Senegal, and Vietnam.
In August 2021, this Center issued a technical paper entitled Young People and Drivers and Barriers to Climate Adaptation Action. It reports survey results showing young people have “a strong willingness to step up and act when facing extreme weather events,” and are “willing to make lifestyle changes”. The Center encourages inclusion of young people in policymaking, stating: “Education, skills development and access to climate information are vital for empowering young people.”
The internet is filled with climate change educational materials for young people. For example, the USA’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a website packed full with information about weather and climate, and games children can play while learning about the planet. See https://climatekids.nasa.gov/about-us/.
Although there is a growing consensus for climate change curriculum inclusion, most nations do not require it. In 2020, Italy became the first nation to make climate change education mandatory. Reportedly, the policy requires 33 hours per school year of study on climate change and sustainability.
Earlier this year, the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organisation (UNESCO) issued a report on the findings of its survey. Entitled Learn for our planet: A global review of how environmental issues are integrated in education, the survey found that more than “half of education policies and curricula studied made no mention of climate change” and more than “a third of survey respondents indicated no inclusion of environment-related content in teacher training programmes.”
Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education at UNESCO, warns: “The results are stark: We are not doing enough to ensure that what we learn helps us to address the environmental challenges that we face.”
UNESCO recommends, “All teachers and school leaders should be versed in Education for Sustainable Development, including in relation to environmental education, climate change and biodiversity,” and that climate change be taught in all countries by the year 2025.
Relatively few colleges require students, studying to become teachers or school administrators, to complete courses focusing on climate change issues. Educators must be equipped with the “education, skills development and access to climate information” they need to teach their students about climate change and sustainability.
When – by what date certain – will colleges require their students, particularly those majoring in education, to complete courses focusing on climate change issues?