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Impact of Climate Change on Education

Updated on: 11 February,2023 06:51 PM IST  |  Mumbai
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Climate change is an issue that is predominant and very pressing in today's world. Climate change is occurring at a very fast rate, and its effect is visible all around the world and in every sphere of life.

Impact of Climate Change on Education

More air conditioners are selling out because the temperatures around our living spaces are going up continuously. People are experiencing brutal summers with heat waves that turn out to be fatal to some. Climate change is affecting living conditions for every section of the world population, and children are also experiencing the effects. One of the most crucial areas of human life is education. Education determines the future of the planet and the life we lead tomorrow.

How Real Is the Impact of Climate Change on Education

However, the present climate conditions and deterioration in them have created challenges and issues in the field of education. For example, according to UNESCO, around 17.2 million people around the world get displaced from their homes because of natural disasters every year. Mass displacement from the home ground not only leads to an overall deterioration in living conditions but also causes disruption in education.

 Areas around the world see school infrastructure destroyed due to natural disasters triggered by climate change. This is just one example of how education is eclipsed under the shadow of climate change. If climate change crushes down the human society as we know it today, what use will it be to educating the future generation for the coming years?

Therefore, it is important for society's stakeholders to know about the challenges and risks that threaten global education due to climate change. Climate change and the risks arising from it need to be addressed and resolved at the earliest for the proper functioning of society and its education system.

Challenges And Risks To Education From Climate Change

Climate change poses a risk to 2.2 billion children globally, and this number is ever-increasing. The resolution of climate change challenges is necessary if the aim is to preserve the future of these children. The above data from UNICEF offers insights into how serious a problem climate change is for the world's children and education system at its roots.

Destruction of the School Infrastructure

School buildings and infrastructure are very crucial to the success of the education system worldwide. The breakdown of school infrastructure due to natural disasters can uproot the education system in one place. Due to climate change, natural disasters are increasing in number and impact settled communities and educational infrastructure. When everything is destroyed by natural disasters, the first instinct of the leaders is to not rebuild schools but focus on basic needs like shelter, food and compensation. Therefore, the children of affected areas are kept away from school education for years. Such a case was seen during Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in 2013. More than 90 percent of schools in many areas were destroyed in the wake of the disaster.

Suffering Health Setbacks And Staying Out Of School

Climate change also has a negative impact on the health of children in the long run. Climate change indirectly leads to hunger and malnutrition among children. Stunting, both physically and mentally, is a result of malnutrition. Stunting can lead to bad performance of the children in school. This ultimately leads to the failure of objectives in the field of education. Children in their initial stage of development in the early five years fall prey to heat stroke, diseases and dehydration due to climate change. In this way, climate change affects not only and cripples the education system but the development of the future generation.

Financial Issues Keep Children Out Of School

The current generation of children and adults are witnessing most of the effects of climate change, and these impacts are affecting them greatly. However, the ramifications of this will also be felt by future generations. Parents are grappling with hunger, poverty and financial issues as a snowball effect of climate change. For example, families at the grassroots level who earn a living by farming are facing acute poverty because they are unable to produce crops and sell a lot of them. This induced poverty triggers the lack of education for the child as they cannot afford education in the long term. The basic issues of hunger and money take the front seat when climate change poses a challenge.

Climate Change Also Affects Teaching Staff

No one really escapes the threats put up by climate change. For example, if there is a natural disaster like drought, flood, or cyclone in an area, it might cut the area off from the outer world. When it is cut off, the teachers who travel to that place to teach the kids can no longer reach the place. Even though a teacher is living in the area, any property loss or injury due to climate change effects can cause a disruption in the services. With the absence of proper teaching staff, the education system of a place crumbles and does not support the children of the area.

The Overall Impact Of Climate Change On Education

The effects of climate change are felt everywhere on the earth. However, the most affected areas at the present time are the tropics. The temperature rise in the tropical areas, coupled with extremely high rainfall, causes disruption in the schooling years of the children of that area. Even though measures are being taken to limit the effect of global warming and climate change, the efforts need to be upscaled. For example, according to IPCC’s 2022 report, limiting the global warming by 1.5°C is not safe for all and additionally 350 million people will face water scarcity by 2030. The water scarcity and other naturally triggered issues in people’s lives will ultimately affect the growth and education potential of the children. With natural disasters becoming frequent and coupled with other risks, it is important that stakeholders and education officers come up with solutions to support children's schooling and development.

Climate variability is stepping in as a major factor in the number of schooling years that the child has. The mitigation of climate change risks and the resolution of issues from a very early stage is important for the continuation of child development and education. The awareness of climate risks and possible outcomes can start inside the classroom itself. Apart from educating the future generation, the education system can also teach adults to take responsibility and make climate-conscious choices in the present. Only better choices and improved plans for climate change mitigation can secure the future of our world.

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Authored by Dr. Jeevananthan M
Assistant Professor, International Management Institute (IMI) Kolkata

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