Young people should learn about the impacts of global warming and how to adapt to climate change
onsider the recent flood of biblical proportions that engulfed a third of this country, an area as vast as the UK. It affected as many people as those living in the US state of Texas. One has to stop and take stock of this situation. Merely imagining floods uprooting 33 million lives is a horrible and painful exercise. In a matter of weeks, people were left stranded and suffering near roadsides, using plastic, cloth – anything that could provide some shelter.
Do you know what gets tossed out the window in a crisis like this? When people are unsure of their next meal? It‘s education, especially of the vulnerable. According to various estimates, more than a thousand schools were destroyed in the floods, and as many as 3 million students will miss school this term.
It’s not as if we didn’t know this was coming. But this was unprecedented. Some areas received 1,000 percent more rain than usual. In 2015, my home city of Karachi was engulfed in the deadliest heatwave. It was one of my earliest memories of climate change disrupting peoples’ lives. At the time, I was unaware. But one thing was clear: this was no one-off event. I later found out it was part of the broader climate change induced impacts.
What I do or can do is change behaviours. Climate education is a powerful tool. I vividly remember my Grade 5 science class, in which we learned about a polar bear left standing on thin, melting ice. At the time, I didn’t draw the connection to climate change. But that sad image stuck with me. Education can encourage people to change their attitudes and behaviours. It also helps them to make informed decisions. Young people should learn about the impacts of global warming and how to adapt to climate change. Education empowers all people but especially motivates the young to take action.
According to recent research, only 16 percent of high school students in developed countries were budgeted to receive climate education. As a result, we could see a 19-gigaton reduction in carbon emissions. Climate education can impact their daily behaviours and decision-making. Now, imagine if all students in the world received such an education.
At COP26, I had the unique opportunity to connect with young people from across the globe. As I talked to them, it became apparent that no matter what the background, nationality or age, they all had the hope and conviction to act. That alone changes a lot. It enables us to take action to realise our dreams. This year, too, I hope for the same.
It is high time young people take their rightful place at the table, not for a hollow show of inclusiveness but to be genuinely empowered. We need to acknowledge young people and children as central stakeholders.
No one took me seriously when, as a 19-year-old, I spoke on urgent climate action. I talked about how young people and children will be most vulnerable to the disastrous effects of climate change. Now, young people across the globe have mobilised for that cause. I pray that young people and children don’t suffer the consequences of inaction or be left to deal with the destruction that is to follow.
I hope that the next generation has a fair chance at life.
The writer is a climate justice ambassador at Plant-for-the-Planet Initiative and a training facilitator at The Climate Fresk. He is also part of the Climate Science, Global Shaper and Climate Reality Community