TODAY -

"Climate literacy" to tackle "climate crisis"

Dr Debapriya Mukherjee *



Education is a critical agent in addressing the issue of climate change as it can encourage the people to change their attitudes and behavior. Last two years I have made regular interactions with the school, particularly in rural areas to assess how much they know about climate change what causes it, what its consequences are and what we can do to stop it?

I observed that all the students were aware of the genuine problem of climate change but they could not explain the causes of climate change. Thereby I explained the causes of global warming with the help of many graphs describing the information given below.

The atmosphere allows most of the visible light from the sun to pass through and reach Earth's surface that is heated by sunlight. It radiates part of this energy back toward space as infrared radiation .

This radiation tends to be absorbed by the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, raising its temperature. The heated atmosphere, in turn, radiates infrared radiation back toward Earth's surface. The industrial revolution and human activity have started to intensify the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

By the end of the 20th century, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased by roughly 30 percent and the amount of methane more than doubled. Carbon emission is caused by two factors the need for development, and the quest for a luxurious lifestyle. Our destructive activities are pushing the earth towards 6th mass extinction.

The carbon footprints and food wastage of the United States are the highest in the world on account of its high living standards.

Human population is growing exponentially, so their needs for food and shelter for which massive deforestation either for agriculture or for urbanization is taking place in addition to over exploitation of natural resources exploited just to fulfil the greed of the people and to maintain luxurious life style.

This global warming ultimately changes the Earth's climates leading to large tracts of forests being gutted into fire, land being flooded with water and the villages being devastated by the cyclones and hurricanes. Climate change is affecting food production, causing severe water stress; it is pushing humanity towards poverty and hunger, forcing people to migrate.

Despite 26 COPs , the global climate did not show positive signs and these conferences are disappointing. No country has adopted its outcomes in totality, though they all agreed to follow it in principle. As a result, global temperature keeps on rising, glaciers across the world have been melting and the rate seems to have doubled in the last two decades.

My main purpose of delivering the above lecture in a friendly and joyful atmosphere was to inculcate the basics of the climate crisis among the students and understand what choices would lead to a bad future or a better future. I believe it is the educator's job to make sure the students know what they have to do as at present but teaching climate literacy is not adequate.

Students are also not aware that climate change and environmental issues do not affect us all in the same way. Indigenous communities and vulnerable sectors of society receive the worst impacts. Most importantly, climate change may cause the disappearance of some species.

In this piquant situation, there is an emergent need to increase "climate literacy" among students because movement of students is not a matter of the future but a fundamental pillar of the present. Their energy must be channelled not only through the power of the streets but also through decision-making processes.

Though thousands of stories on climate change have been published over the years, many of them can be difficult for students to understand. By the end of my lectures, students filled with relevant information were more worried about climate change and realized their role to stop the spread of the problem i.e. cutting emissions,, the necessity of strengthening our forests and the ocean's capacity to sequester carbon so that the Earth system will start taking care of us safely.

That would be the equivalent of a vaccine for Earth. With reference to the power of the student we can mention the quote of 15-year-old Greta Thunberg in Sweden-"If children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we could all do together if we really wanted to".

Finally it may be mentioned that carbon literacy, the lifecycle and impact of materials, the finite nature of resources, and pollution are the most important topics for all the students to solve the crisis.

When education helps students to develop a strong personal connection to climate solutions, as well as a sense of personal agency and empowerment, it can have a consequential impact on students' daily behaviors and decision making that reduces their overall lifetime carbon footprint.

One of the key challenges is how we actually bring all the sciences together.


* Dr Debapriya Mukherjee wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on December 24, 2021.


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