Climate change is arguably the biggest threat posed to the majority of countries. Without a major technological breakthrough in energy productivity, everyone in the world can only use 6kg of carbon emission every day by 2050, according to the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI). This would be like deciding between a 40km car ride and a day of air-conditioning per person.
If the limit is exceeded, the world cannot make the 2-degree climate change target – a magic number where further climate change would cause the most catastrophic effects result from global warming.
In that sense, it is necessary to pay more attention to mitigating those serious consequences. It is notable that public institutions have been focusing on implementing green policies and promoting new technologies, but they have neglected the importance of education.
Green Energy Revolution
Renewable energy has witnessed significant cost reduction recently, but it has its own limitations. It does not work 365 days a year and is not effective in places with physical constraints, like Bangladesh, which has a population density of more than 1200 people per square km. There would be more incentive for government institutions in developing countries to develop the land economically, instead of developing renewable energy.
Besides, the Paris Agreement of December 2015 did not come up with any sound action, only moderate statements. Though it was a great accomplishment with 195 countries coming up with a treaty, these targets were not ambitious enough. To fulfil challenging targets, countries would need to command massive re-engineering across the infrastructures and vital energy systems.
These includes dams, railways, highways, pipelines. Moreover, Russia and the United States could suffer losses from these counter-climate change measures since their economy is heavily reliant on the industry, which explains why policymakers would be unwilling to get more involved.
Making It Happen
McKinsey Global Institute emphasised the importance of technological innovation since the energy productivity must increase three times faster than it did during the Industrial Revolution to satisfy the world’s needs. When it comes to innovation, there is a tremendous financial barrier.
These master plans are difficult to achieve and require massive funding from the global capital market, not only from the World Bank.
According to the UN, the world’s population is going to continue to grow and will likely reach 8.5bn by 2030 and exceed 11bn in 2100. The booming population and the demographic transition would lead to a greater energy consumption, while China, United States, Russia and Japan will remain the biggest polluters in the world. In other words, world leaders and policymakers are working on a disaster that hardly comes within their practical daily politics.
Education Is Key
Education is the only solution at the moment, as it is a way to convey messages to people. The 2015 Pew Research survey demonstrated that while a global median of 54% respondents considered global warming a very serious problem, people from the two largest polluters, China and the US, were among the least concerned.
This illustrates there is an education gap not only between developed nations and developing nations but also within the countries. Only 18% of Chinese and 45% of Americans think global warming is a serious issue, showing that the nations have extreme differences internally and between countries in the understanding of climate change.
In the United States, Republicans are opposed to the counter global warming measures whereas Democrats are on the other way. Through education, people acknowledge the role they are playing in climate change. It also helps to change their lifestyle, for instance, replacing energy-inefficient products to reduce wastage.
With education, more people can conduct researches, not only in universities, government institutions and MNCs but even in farmlands and villages. In Niger, there are schemes to educate farmers and fund them to grow productive climate-resistant crops.
With education, more people are encouraged to focus on key areas while discovering new possibilities. The advent of new technologies could bring down the costs through more effective approaches. Advancing technologies could increase the efficiency, bring down the expenses and resolve some major drawbacks like a potential leakage of Carbon Dioxide.
The goal is to encourage the private sector to realise the opportunities of climate change. This is not only limited to the industries like bio-fuel and renewables. If we look at energy efficiency, there are possible options across different sectors, including residential, commercial, industrial, transport and transformation.
Among them, industrial (39%) and residential (26%) have the largest potential to capture the energy efficiency opportunities, cited from MGI. For instance, Residential: using high-insulation building materials, efficiency water heating and Industrial: the usage of chemicals, aluminium, and food processing and so on.
It is not surprising that China and North America are the largest markets in terms of increasing energy productivity. Through eliminating the education gap of the largest polluters in the world, it is easier to get the applicable policies on board, such as conventional ideas on taxations and effectively reducing CO2 emissions.
They could lead the world to meet the emission targets and continue to influence the world positively. Hence, education should act as a great tool to link the developed nations with the developing ones, at least on the matter of climate change.
Education puts new concepts and possibilities in place and will hopefully teach youngsters more about climate actions as the knowledge can filter up to older generations and ultimately the whole society. The firms could recognise the economic growth brought by the climate crisis, instead of merely additional costs to the business and willing to invest in innovative practices.
In essence, governments are willing and able to carry out ambitious targets, like Sweden targeting a zero-emission economy by 2045. Education plays a major role in addressing climate change because of how challenging the issue is. There is no clear solution to it, but people need to discover a more suitable and attainable way to address the problem.
Decarbonisation requires the art of negotiation between countries and determined policymakers and population. The next global climate meeting (COP22 in Marrakesh) will determine world’s the future as a global society and the new global order.