Why you should consider climate education to cope with climate change
For most, climate education (or climate change education) looks like a vague catch-all concept to characterize tree-hugging outdoor gatherings. For the more discerning ones, it is what children are taught about climate change at schools, or the advertisements you see to help you sort your garbage. Climate education is much more than just that.
Education is shaping our societies, and is often the last societal change to happen in a transformative era, as it means to rethink the values and cultures we stand upon. As we tend towards more sustainable ways of life, our societies must embrace new life habits that are counter-intuitive and hard to adopt, it is time to consider climate education as a way to learn new societal norms and collectively play a role to fight climate change.
Here are four reasons to support climate education initiatives and give all individuals the tools to learn and act to cope with climate change.
I. Climate-awareness was the first step, let’s make way for climate education
There is a problem with our communication on climate change. For many years, NGOs, activists or environmentalists have adopted climate-awareness through campaigns, ads or protests as the best approach to make governments and the public opinion aware of the urgency of the situation. This has had some positive effects, because climate change emergency is now broadly accepted amongst Western countries.
However, not everything went as planned. A wide range of the world’s population does not recognize itself in extreme and vindicative movements for climate change. And for those who accept climate change, climate awareness does not lead to action, people rather turn to resignation or eco-anxiety.
Even though many people have the best intentions, research shows that 80% of the people fail to fulfill those intentions, so there is this huge gap between intention and action.
Katharina Paoli, CEO of Nudgd
Moreover, we tend to forget that climate change is not yet accepted by everyone. Indeed, in developing countries, climate change is not always a top priority for households, and governments see it as a way for Western elites to maintain their dominance over the world, by preventing them from developing their economy with fossil fuels.
We have reached a stalemate as the gap between climate aware and deniers is widening, but none of them act to curb carbon emissions. Let put climate education at the core of all awareness and learning on climate change, so that each individual turns towards a more responsible life in its academic, professional or personal life.
Climate awareness does not lead to action: Our interview with Katharina Paoli, Founder at Nudgd
II. The future of work and education will be climate-oriented
Climate education can give future professional vocations to support our transition towards a greener world. We are in desperate need for engineers to lead the energy transition, farmers to create a more sustainable agriculture, eco-designers to transform our retail industry… More generally, all companies will look for ESG-skilled employees to look for more responsible sources of revenues. According to the International Labour Organization, reducing greenhouse gas emissions could create four times more jobs worldwide than it would destroy.
Even elementary school students need to get ready for the change — by 2030, 85 percent of them will work in professions that do not yet exist.
McKinsey, 2019 report, Closing the future-skills gap
But the situation is changing faster than previously expected, climate education does not only concern future generations but the current workforce in need for retraining and upskilling also. People with ESG skills are still rare, and the same transition will occur as with the digital transition ten years ago. The timing is definitely appropriate, and the shift is finally happening in higher education as students are eager to learn on the subject and companies provide new job opportunities related to ESG.
The French Ministry of Ecological Transition’s first report on accelerating the ecological and solidarity-based transition, published in February 2019, suggests that the energy transition, while creating few new jobs, will bring about profound transformations in existing jobs, and thus emphasises the need for new skills to be acquired in all sectors. Raising the awareness of employees in all economic sectors to the challenges of energy transition is presented as essential.
Climate education with specialized lifelong learning companies can help accelerate the transition of our societies and cater to the needs for training and upskilling.
We are in desperate need for engineers to lead the energy transition: Interview with Pauline Van der Vorm at The Green Village
III. Delivering a positive message for future generations
Eco-anxiety is a concept rising amongst young generations being afraid that they will not have a future as good as their parents or grand-parents, because of the ecological crisis. Millions of children experience depression, anxiety or panic and think obsessively about climate change and its effects on our planet. Many factors can explain the rise of eco-anxiety, but climate education can be an efficient answer to empower the youth to act and give them positive thinking about their impact as individuals.
FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education) have for example massively democratized the carbon handprint approach amongst their 20M engaged children, to assess the positive impact of a solution on the planet in opposition with the carbon footprint we normally use. They also use learning pedagogies like project-based learning to give children a practice of how a problem can be solved and then develop habits.
You are not doing a one-day clean-up campaign just to clean the beaches one day each year, but to sensibilise. This way you don’t stay a silent spectator of what’s happening
Pramod Kumar Sharma, Senior Head of Education at FEE
Empower future generations to act: Our interview with Pramod Kumar Sharma & Kristina Madsen at FEE
IV. Climate education is the first step to trigger climate action
As we said earlier, climate awareness is not enough because information or knowledge won’t make me change my behavior. Knowing what carbon dioxyde is won’t affect me that much, or maybe not permanently on a daily basis (otherwise you are clearly experiencing eco-anxiety). Good intentions after watching a documentary on nature will generally not lead to action.
That is why climate education has to be the trigger to climate action in order to be efficient and permanently change our behavior. If we understand the reasons to change our daily habits, we’ll accept it more easily and it will be less painful. Using his bike to go to work, eat less meat, help finance sustainable projects, all of this has to go from a System 2 approach (a conscious action) to a System 1 approach (a routine, common, unconscious action). That’s good news, many climate education start-ups are already trying to modify societal norms at scale, and many more should come quickly.
Climate awareness does not trigger climate action: Our interview with Sven Collett at Ducky
Give tools to help people take climate action: Our interview with Brenna Foster at Klima
Climate education is not only about schools or about telling you how to sort your garbage. Learning is not only about knowledge but more about changing attitude, behavior, competencies. And this change has to be permanent.Its importance is definitely rising, and is one of the major topic of the upcoming COP26 summit.
We have launched The Ikigaï Project last month because we believe that climate education is a major focus point to building resilient futures. Our mission for the next five months will be to meet up with +100 experts on climate education around the world, to find universal ways to learn about climate change and ignite climate action to all! We are partnering up with renowned investors, schools, start-ups, visiting ministries and universities, attending major events such as COP26 and building a community of worldwide climate education experts.
You can follow our journey and see our latest news by subscribing to our newsletter here: https://lu.ma/Ikigai.project
See you soon!
The Iki team