While at first glance the relationship between education and climate change may not be clear, a number of challenges and opportunities become apparent when the two are considered together. Climate change education is highly relevant to youth, who will grapple with the impacts of climate change for decades to come. Already, climate change is reducing access to education by washing out roads, disrupting transportation, or impacting the health and livelihoods of students and their family members. School infrastructure is often affected or even repurposed due to climate-related disasters. Girls are more likely than boys to be affected by climate change in ways that deprive them of their education due to socially constructed roles and responsibilities, such as water collection.
At the same time, education on climate change is an opportunity because of its multifaceted nature. Providing a well-rounded education on climate change promotes systems thinking, more informed decision-making, and ultimately, more sustainable societies. Climate resilient infrastructure and planning for displacement and migration can help ensure that education goals are met. Integrating climate change into primary and secondary education sensitizes students to climate-related issues, as well as contributing to disaster risk preparedness. Climate change education is part of education for sustainable development, a component of the fourth sustainable development goal on education. This education is critical; given the immediate climate action, “learning from experience is learning too late.”
USAID has extensive experience with international education. In the period from 2011 to 2017, USAID education programs brought direct benefits to more than 83.4 million children and youth in more than 50 countries. USAID’s Education Policy, updated in 2018, indicates that USAID will focus on education for children and youth—particularly girls and displaced groups—experiencing conflict, adversity, and crisis. It also acknowledges that learning opportunities are directly affected by human-made and natural disasters. By focusing on crisis-affected areas, girls, and displaced groups, USAID is proactively ensuring increased education access in the face of a changing climate. The Policy also prioritizes building the capacity of higher education institutions. Given the challenges and opportunities that climate change poses for developing countries, knowledge and skills related to climate change are and will continue to be highly relevant for youth and the labor market.
A selection of related blogs, resources, and images from the Climatelinks photo gallery can be found below:
The education sector page on Climatelinks provides a portal for climate change and education content, including resources, blogs and events.
Equipping Youth with Knowledge and Capacity to Better Manage Climate Risk features USAID/Indonesia’s Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience (APIK) Project, which empowered youth through climate and disaster education activities. APIK engaged more than 3,000 youth through classroom learning, activities, and camps. Students learned concepts such as erosion control through tree planting, weather forecasting and preparedness, and what to do when disasters strike.
Environmental Peacebuilding: Opportunities and Synergies of Climate and Environmental Governance in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States highlights the difficulties of peacebuilding in fragile and conflict-affected states. The author shares his experiences from post-civil war Nepal, and notes that increased access to education is one of many co-benefits resulting from climate-forward policies.
What’s in a Game? Helping Improve Livelihoods - and an Ecosystem - with a Game offers a unique perspective on the use of a game to assist in educating community members on the benefits of complex topics like natural resource management, food and energy production, and resilience. The game, called Eco Game: Northern Ghana, received an overwhelmingly positive response from adult participants.
Case Study - Auditing for Energy Efficiency: Students Conduct Energy Audits in Polokwane details the South Africa Low Emissions Development (SA-LED) Program’s process of selecting and training 20 electrical engineering students from a local college in energy efficiency audits. The case study and related video highlight the approach as providing cost-effective training and practical, hands-on experience for the students involved.
Advancing Gender in the Environment: Gender-Responsive Geothermal Generation is a case study featuring the work of LaGeo, a geothermal energy utility in El Salvador. While the case study primarily highlights LaGeo’s role in empowering women and increasing gender equality, it also highlights how companies like LaGeo can leverage corporate social responsibility across impact areas including education, health, and social infrastructure development.
Photo Gallery Images:
Students Relating Changes in Weather Patterns to Mosquito-Borne Malaria Disease Occurrence shows a group of students in Kenya as they present their findings on malaria occurrences from mosquito habitat mapping.
Jamaican Youth Learn Climate Change Mitigation shows a teacher and students planting a tree as part of their climate change training, which included climate change effects and risk mitigation.
Recognizing Signs of Natural Disasters shows a classroom in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, where a teacher leads a lesson on how to spot common signs of incoming natural disasters.
Stephan Hardeman is the Site and Community Manager for Climatelinks. He draws on more than five years of experience in communications for international environmental trust funds to support Climatelinks through USAID’s Sharing Environment and Energy Knowledge (SEEK) initiative by engaging the Climatelinks community and featuring its work. Stephan has MAs in International Affairs (American University) and Natural Resources and Sustainable Development (United Nations University for Peace) and BAs in English and Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.