No Excuse Not to Teach Climate Crisis Mitigation and Adaptation

No Excuse Not to Teach Climate Crisis Mitigation and Adaptation

NASA said we just experienced the hottest decade ever. NOAA said the world’s five warmest years on record have all occurred since 2015. In 2019, the Arctic, the Amazon and Australia each burned at record levels.

“We are still losing the climate race, said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. “On our current trajectory, we are looking at a 3- to 4-degree temperature rise by the end of this century.” (And things get ugly above 1.5 degree increase.)

If those data points aren’t enough evidence of the pervasive impact humans have had on our climate, the world’s biggest investor just flipped. Larry Fink—CEO of Blackrock, a fund with almost $7 trillion under management (yes, that’s t for trillion)—said in his annual letter to CEOs that “Every government, company, and shareholder must confront climate change.”

Fink believes “In the near future—and sooner than most anticipate—there will be a significant reallocation of capital,” as a result of responses to climate change.

He’s particularly worried about cities where “municipal infrastructure, from roads to sewers to transit, have been built for tolerances and weather conditions that do not align with the new climate reality.”

“There is no denying the direction we are heading,” Fink concluded.

When the world’s biggest investor flips, we have reached a tipping point. Given the scientific, political, and now financial evidence mounting, there is no excuse for not teaching climate mitigation and adaptation to high school and college students – and making it a central institutional focus, not an extra project.

It’s not as if Fink was way out in front of the market. Some 85% of individual investors and 95% of millennials have already indicated interest in sustainable options. More than 80% of parents in the U.S. support the teaching of climate change, according to a recent NPR poll.

Just last week, Microsoft announced that it will be carbon negative, that is, removing more carbon than it emits, by 2030. It’s a bold and ambitious move for any company, especially a large multinational corporation. Others will undoubtedly take notice.

Integrating Climate Across the Curriculum

Why teach weather? While the weather has been wacky, we’re not talking about teaching short term weather phenomena; we’re talking about exploring the long term shifts in climate that will make large portions of the planet unproductive even uninhabitable; we’re talking about a dramatic loss of species diversity; we’re talking about rolling drought and famine, fire and destructive storms that will trigger mass immigration, terrorism, and war.

Not only do we need every country to go carbon negative to hit the brakes on global warming (that’s called mitigation), the likelihood that we’ll go over two degrees of warming suggests we need to learn to live together on a hot planet (that’s adaptation).

The climate crisis and the rise of artificial intelligence will be the dominant issue in the lives of young people for the next 20 years – and that’s about all the time we have to learn to live together with a hot planet and smart machines.

If we get moving and mobilize a billion young people passionate about saving the planet and equipped to use big data and smart tools to put up a good fight, they have a shot at leaving a sustainable planet to their kids.

High school and college leaders have the opportunity to lead community conversations about climate. More specifically, they can create forums where young people can move climate action into the center of the curriculum and the heart of the community.

For students, understanding the science behind the climate crisis is just one piece of the puzzle. They need active opportunities to use design thinking and data science to begin taking on local versions of global challenges.

Given its widespread implications, climate mitigation and adaptation should be central to how young people learn science, math and social studies, and what they write about in English. Hold a community conversation and make climate action a priority in your school sooner rather than later.

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This blog was originally published on Forbes.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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