Climate change: The thing almost everyone is aware of, no common person has the power to change and what almost every politician refuses to take action against.
Carbon dioxide levels are rising. This is an unobjectionable fact, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration observatory on Mauna Loa showing a rise from under 320 ppm (parts per million) in the 1960s, but over 400 ppm in 2019 — a rise of over 80 parts per million in 50 years. This is something that simply does not occur naturally. There is no possible debate here.
Coastal areas tend to be hit worst, with Italy in particular being a recent example. The Regional Council of Veneto rejected a plan to combat climate change, and in a twist of cruel irony, had their council chambers flooded mere minutes later. The waters peaked at a height of 1.87 meters — or over 6 feet — while the city was 70% submerged. This was weeks ago, but the effects remain, costing Italy billions in future damages due to the more intense rains and higher sea levels of climate change — as will be the fate of all coastal regions.
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Therefore, it should come as a surprise to no one that Italy has decided to begin teaching about climate change in its public schools as an official subject, the first country to do so. Students will be taught about climate change with sustainability being at the core of it, something that will undoubtedly lead to heightened awareness. Lorenzo Fioramonti, the current Italian Education Minister, said “[he] want[s] to make the Italian educational system the first educational system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school.” The obvious question will now linger in the air: should the United States institute something similar?
The United States is an international hegemon and therefore should be the one leading the world in terms of climate action instead of having a government that denies its existence, a culture that’s still hostile to climate action and a populace left ill-informed and unknowing of the truth of the matter, lulled into thinking if they simply recycle plastic they’ve saved the turtles and their expensive water bottles make up for the environmental cost of their rich, suburban lifestyle.
Almost every science class that a public school student in the United States has been through has experienced some sort of lesson on the greenhouse effect and vague messages about reducing, reusing and recycling. Rarely are the hard statistics given, or the sources for the most greenhouse gas emissions and pollution revealed — facts which not enough people know about.
The fossil fuel industry keeps on buying out politicians, keeps on deliberately misinforming the public and their PR has managed to work. For example, ExxonMobil has known about climate change since 1977. They deliberately covered it up, hiding the truth from American voters for decades, pulling the wool over our eyes without us even realizing it.
Despite the current political climate, it’d be best for our students to learn about the players behind the climate change crisis. Our students should learn about sustainability as the ones in Italy do, even though its industrialists are the ones doing the worst of it. The students of today are the politicians and voters of tomorrow, and we’re all the ones inheriting this problem.
It is imperative that teaching about climate change and its disastrous effects, as well as whatever we can do to mitigate them, be taught in schools, effective immediately. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization themselves make a point of climate change education, stating it “helps young people understand and address the impact of global warming, encourages changes in their attitudes and behavior and helps them adapt to climate change-related trends.” Climate change education is not something we should ever deny our young citizens.
Shailaja Singh ([email protected]) is a freshman studying genetics.