Education’s crucial role in community Climate Change Adaptation

Source(s): Climate Adaptation Platform

The most vulnerable to climate change are those living in developing countries and poor regions worldwide.

When faced with a changing climate, educated people tend to seek out information and adjust their behaviour, making them more resilient to climate change.

An example is the Lolokuru brothers in Kenya, Africa. Shadrack and his brother Robert are accountants in Nairobi, while their older brother Lkitotian is uneducated.

The three brothers raise cattle, but with climate change reducing water supplies, Shadrack decides to sell half of his herds to prevent some of them from dying from thirst.

The Horn of Africa is facing the worst drought in four decades this year, and for the Lolokuru family, the harsh weather is becoming their way of life.

Even though many of their neighbours have lost their herd due to harsh conditions, Lkitotian, the older brother, still refuses to reduce the number of his cows. The sad part is that most of their uneducated neighbours also share Lkitotian views and don’t believe in climate change but expect the climate to return to how it was many generations ago.

The above is just one of the many examples given by The Economist article, “Climate change is harder on less educated people”, on how uneducated people vs educated ones adapt to the changing climate.

The article notes that the importance of education in addressing climate change is “underappreciated”; however, it stresses that a bit of learning goes a long way in helping people adapt, and its absence can leave people vulnerable.

A study “Effects of Educational Attainment on Climate Risk Vulnerability” finds that education makes things easier. The authors compared two modelled scenarios for sub-Saharan Africa, one where 30% of the women had finished a secondary education by 2050 and one which has 70%.

Their analysis shows that a higher percentage (70%) of educated women can decrease death tolls from extreme events – floods, droughts, wildfires, and high temperatures by 60% between 2040 and 2050.

Another study by Raya Muttarak of the University of Bologna and Anna Dimitrova of the Wittgenstein Centre in Vienna finds that children are less likely to be stunted when their mothers are educated. The study looks at the relationship between floods and childhood stunting in India.

Floods can carry bacteria, causes diseases in children and affect their brain. Still, educated mothers understand hygiene and good nutrition and are more inclined to apply this knowledge in child-rearing, thus protecting their children from diseases and stunting.

According to the study, educated mothers are better at acquiring new information, assessing unknown risks and sudden changes, and responding in an informed way.

The article also gives examples of educated people using better farming methods than their less-educated family members to cope with drier conditions or less precipitation in Kenya. In India, a farmer taught himself better farming practices which yielded good profits, while other farmers in the area suffered losses.

The article notes that even basic literacy can make a big difference in helping people adapt to climate change. It can serve as a foundation to learn new skills and acquire more information.

“Better-educated folk have more access to information, such as early warnings for storms or droughts. Education “enhances cognitive skills and the willingness to change risky behaviour while simultaneously extending the personal planning horizon”. It leads to better health. Hence, people are physically able to adapt, and to higher incomes, which always come in handy”.

While education can create resilient and adaptive people, ignorance makes “vicious ones”. The article notes that parents in Shadrack’s home village in northern Kenya pay their children’s school fees.

However, when money becomes tight, educated parents still keep their kids at school while uneducated parents pull out their kids, which sets up the next generation for failure.   

The article says that illiteracy can be the main barrier to progress as people tend to find it hard to change their ideas.

Click the link to read the article, “Climate change is harder on less educated people.”

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