Climate change needs to be taught

Dr Debapriya Mukherjee
Few days back, I was discussing with my students about biodiversity and ecological crisis with reference to extinction of >160 species and > 38,500 species on the verge of extinction and explaining the anthropogenic activities such as pollution, over exploitation of natural resources and habitat destruction leading to disruption of biodiversity.
While discussion was going on, one of my students requested to curtail the discussion because we would need only selected notes to cover environmental science. Then I tried to enquire whether they are interested to know about adverse impact of climate change on human being. Promptly they answered “no” as this was not covered in their syllabus. Then I realized that these destructive practices are practically facilitated by a lack of knowledge and respect for the environment, which is ultimately caused by inadequate environmental education.
Surprisingly, the students frequently state that the greenhouse gas emissions are the most effective on the global climate change. They know very well the main causes of global climate change such as deterioration in the ecosystem, environmental pollution, human consumption, water consumption, depletion of natural resources, forest fires and air pollution.
Despite knowing the causes of climate change, the students do not have any idea of its increasing impact on a global scale and especially in the last few decades, suffering of all humanity from the effects of sudden floods, storms, tornadoes that cause great destruction, drought, and food crisis.
In this piquant situation, raising students’ awareness and making changes in education policies regarding this issue has become an important agenda item in the field of public policy. Now environmental education is increasingly finding a common focus in addressing climate change issues.
At present, the problems we are facing due to climate change require new solutions. Exploring the problem area effectively is critical for creative problem solving.
Therefore, people who are sensitive to the problems of the world must be trained. The people who will take the lead on the environmental issues of the future will need adequate experience in improving the environment. Now there is emergent need to train the students in such a manner that they can think critically, question and criticize. At this point, working with students may be a good choice because these children are likely to be in roles that can take important responsibilities in making our world a more liveable place in the future. D
eveloping students’ creative and critical thinking skills is the key to their general cognitive development and intellectual development. Therefore, one way to improve students’ skills is to establish a learning environment based on critical thinking skills.
Many are pushing for schools and colleges to add climate change to their curriculum. The Prime Minister recently said there is a need to include "climate change adaptation policies" in the school syllabus. Unfortunately, India currently has no curriculum on climate change, but some aspects such as sustainability are taught under environmental studies, which is compulsory in schools and colleges, but existing teaching methods do not address the scale of the problem.
(To be contd)