30 ONLINE 21 A, Climate Change Education - Part 2
Paper Session continued from 30 ONLINE 20 A
MeetingID: 857 9192 6641 Code: DvcP8Y
Climate change is increasing the frequency and the severity of heatwaves, droughts, floods, wildfires, and storms which are already harming human health and livelihoods worldwide. Children are particularly vulnerable and UNICEF has declared that ‘the climate crisis is a child rights crisis’ (UNICEF, 2021). Although most of the burden will occur in low- and middle-income countries, where children are disproportionately exposed to climate change and are also least resourced to adapt, effects are also present in many high-income countries -- including Europe -- as evidenced by the recent floods in Germany and forest fires in Sweden.
So far, research on children and climate change has mainly focused on physical health outcomes, with the recent addition of a review linking climate change with child and adolescent psychosocial development (Vergunst & Berry, 2021). Within education research, there is a growing body of literature on children’s education about climate change, such as curricula and teaching strategies (Reid, 2019). However, there is a large gap in our understanding of how climate change will affect children’s educational experiences and thus their education outcomes. Given the association between education attainment and nearly every meaningful life outcome, and the pace of rapidly advancing climate change, addressing these questions is increasingly urgent.
The aim of this study was to examine literature linking climate change-related stressors and education outcomes and to create a conceptual model of how these processes might operate and interact. We adopt a developmental life course perspective to capture the additive, interactive and cumulative nature of psychosocial and environmental stressors on education outcomes. By highlighting the pathways and processes through which these harmful effects may occur, we aim to create a roadmap for how threats can be anticipated so that effective mitigation and adaptative strategies can be implemented.
We conducted a narrative synthesis of literature on the relationship between climate change-related stressors and education outcomes and then created a conceptual model describing the pathways and processes through which these effects might occur. Climate change stressors were defined as both sudden events – such as storms, fires, heatwaves, and floods – and more gradual events – such as rising sea levels, droughts, and vector-borne diseases. Education outcomes were defined as academic achievement and attainment, and primary and secondary school completion rates.
Results indicate that climate change-related stressors are already negatively affecting children’s education outcomes worldwide and that this process is occurring through four main pathways. These risk pathways could operate in isolation, in parallel, or interactively to undermine education outcomes. First, climate change is increasing the global disease burden, 88% of which is expected to occur among children under age five (Sheffield & Landrigan, 2011). Early life health problems delay the attainment of developmental milestones, including cognitive and non-cognitive skill formation, and thus harm education outcomes. For example, increasing rates of vector-borne diseases like Malaria reduce children’s school attendance (Banerjee & Duflo, 2011). Second, rates of psychosocial problems and mental health disorders are also increasing as the planet warms (Vergunst & Berry, 2021). Maternal exposure to extreme heatwaves is linked with obstetric complications and premature birth, which are well-documented risk factors for several major developmental and neuropsychiatric disorders (Dalman et al., 1999) and, thus, to sub-optimal education outcomes. Exposure to extreme weather events – e.g., wildfires, storms, floods – can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, which can harm education participation and eventual attainment (Agnafors et al., 2021, Clemens et al. 2020). Third, climate change will increasingly disrupt natural environmental, economic, and geopolitical support systems and contribute to economic downturns, famines, civil unrest, and war. These events can contribute to problems further down the causal chains such as the disruption of transport, increases in staff shortages, and damage to infrastructure. Finally, incremental social and behavioural changes in response to slower moving climate change stressors can disrupt physical mobility, school attendance, and education engagement. For example, heat waves and hotter average temperatures can undermine sleep quality (Minor et al., 2020), learning (Park et al., 2021), cognitive test performance (Park, 2020), and high-school graduation rates (Zivin et al., 2015).
Agnafors, S., Barmark, M., & Sydsjö, G. (2021). Mental health and academic performance: a study on selection and causation effects from childhood to early adulthood. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 56(5), 857–866. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-020-01934-5 Banerjee, A. V, & Duflo, E. (2011). Poor economics: A radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty. Clemens, V., von Hirschhausen, E., & Fegert, J. M. (2020). Report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change: implications for the mental health policy of children and adolescents in Europe—a scoping review. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-020-01615-3 Dalman, C., Allebeck, P., Cullberg, J., Grunewald, C., & Köster, M. (1999). Obstetric Complications and the Risk of Schizophrenia. Archives of General Psychiatry, 56(3), 234. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.56.3.234 Minor, K., Bjerre-Nielsen, A., Jonasdottir, S. S., Lehmann, S., & Obradovich, N. (2020). Ambient heat and human sleep. http://arxiv.org/abs/2011.07161 Park, R. J. (2020). Hot Temperature and High Stakes Performance. Journal of Human Resources. https://doi.org/10.3368/jhr.57.2.0618-9535R3 Park, R. J., Behrer, A. P., & Goodman, J. (2021). Learning is inhibited by heat exposure, both internationally and within the United States. Nature Human Behaviour, 5(1), 19–27. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-00959-9 Reid, A. (2019). Climate change education and research: possibilities and potentials versus problems and perils? Environmental Education Research, 25(6), 767–790. https://doi.org/10.1080/13504622.2019.1664075 Sheffield, P. E., & Landrigan, P. J. (2011). Global Climate Change and Children’s Health: Threats and Strategies for Prevention. Environmental Health Perspectives, 119(3), 291–298. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1002233 UNICEF. (2021). The climate crisis is a child rights crisis. Vergunst, F., & Berry, H. L. (2021). Climate Change and Children’s Mental Health: A Developmental Perspective. Clinical Psychological Science, 216770262110407. https://doi.org/10.1177/21677026211040787 Zivin, J. S. G., Hsiang, S., & Neidell, M. (2015). Temperature and Human Capital in the Short- and Long-Run. https://doi.org/10.3386/w21157
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