The Power of School: Improve Lives & Climate Change
15 minute read
Updated on Mon Mar 29 2021
Education and poverty
In many parts of the world, it is hard for children from poorer families to go to school. This limits their job prospects when they get older, meaning they are more likely to stay poor, and less likely to be able to send their children to school. And so the cycle goes on: lack of education traps people in poverty.
Education empowers people; by understanding the world around us we can have more control over our own lives. Ensuring that all children get access to high quality education is an important goal but, too often, girls are being left behind.
Furthermore, with better education women make better health choices for themselves and their children, such as choosing to leave longer gaps between births. This leads to lower child death rates. As death rates fall, women tend to have fewer children as they no longer expect to lose their children early in life.
What does this mean for climate change?
Educating women slows a country’s population growth. This means that, in the future, its population will be smaller than it would have been if the population growth rate had remained high. So, can we assume that the country’s total emissions fall?
Often it’s not quite that simple because several changes happen at once. Higher education is also linked to economic growth of countries, so it is likely that, as the population growth rate falls, the emissions produced per person will rise. This means that the total emissions produced by the country will probably rise too.
Take a look at this highly simplified diagram:
By providing education for girls in low- and lower-middle-income countries, the subsequent fall in population growth could prevent 51.48 Gt of emissions (CO₂eq) by 2050! That’s 93% of the total greenhouse gas emissions (CO₂eq) in 2018.
Education for sustainability
Another way education can help stop climate change is by increasing awareness and encouraging informed and sustainable choices. Let’s look at an example from Europe:
This is because the long-term measures needed to stop climate change can have short-term disadvantages, such as being expensive. Politicians fear that these short-term disadvantages will make them unpopular with their voters and climate laws are less likely to be passed before elections for this reason.
We cannot say for sure that better public understanding of climate change encourages stronger climate policies. There is evidence, however, that education strengthens democracy and it is possible that education about climate change could help voters see the importance of strong policies and vote for candidates that will implement them.
Improving access to high quality education benefits society by improving gender equality and reducing long-term poverty. It could also help stop climate change by empowering people to make informed decisions everyday.Next Chapter