02 July 2019


Educating people about climate change

By Aspire IAS

Educating people about climate change

Theme: Climate Change and awareness


Climate change has the potential to disrupt and reshape lives. There are several alarming predictions about its impact. Vulnerable populations should be made aware of the potential risks and how to cope with them.

Global findings and India 

  • The UN Sustainable Goals Report, 2018 notes that climate change is among the key factors in rising hunger and human displacement. 
  • The World Health Organisation estimates that climate change will cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050, due to malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress. 
  • Much of this loss will be accounted for by low-income groups in developing nations, including India.  The World Bank projects that climate change could cost India 2.8% of its GDP, and diminish living standards for nearly half the population, in the next 30-odd years.

Need of awareness:

  • Do vulnerable groups know the manifestations of climate change, and are they aware that it could potentially affect the health, livelihoods and lives of their families and communities, of present and future generations? 
  • Is there sufficient awareness about its causes, especially about anthropogenic contributions?

Various initiatives:

  • In 1991, the Supreme Court directed the Central government and all State governments to provide compulsory environmental education to all students in schools and colleges. 
  • This directive was reiterated in 2003 (M.C Mehta v. Union of India).
  • Corporate organisations, research and education institutes, NGOs and foundations have committed themselves to educating people about climate change and providing the know-how for mitigation, adaptation and resilience building.
  • These initiatives target urban and rural populations including school going children. 
  • Their thrust ranges from inculcating the concept of environmental sustainability to driving home the impact of climate change on food, water, nutrition and health.

Effectiveness of initiatives:

  • Climate change seems to find low weight in everyday lives and conversations. 
  • Most of the country’s plans for vulnerable populations are directed towards poverty alleviation, improving living standards, enhancing access to education, sanitation, healthcare and ensuring human rights. Climate change finds little mention. 
  • It must receive greater prominence because the lives of a large number of the population are at risk. It is important that they know how to address and minimise the risks they face.

Way Forward:

  • At present, climate change does not find specific mention in Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013. 
  • If it were to be articulated and specified as an activity for corporate social responsibility (CSR), schedule VII (of Companies Act 2013) would then need to be amended to include climate change as an area for investment. 
  • Rather than be implied in the umbrella term of environmental sustainability, organisations may be encouraged to view it with increased importance and clarity and lend more weight to creating awareness, mitigation and resilience-building. 
  • Scaling up current initiatives of the corporate and social sectors to regional or national levels would be an early, albeit challenging, solution. 
  • The National CSR Data Portal reports corporate spends on environment, animal welfare and conservation of resources to be Rs. 801 crore in 2014-15 and Rs. 912 crore in 2015-16. It shows that the business organisations are willing to invest in issues related to the environment. 
  • Similarly, the film industry could consider ways to incorporate key aspects of climate change in films, writers could introduce climate change in adult and children’s literature, and gaming companies could develop games on this theme.