What Schools Can Do to Tackle Climate Change (Hint: More Than You Think)
It takes a lot of mental and emotional energy to admit that climate change exists, that humans are causing it, and that it will take massive societal realignment to reverse its most devastating effects.
The most tempting response might be to defer responsibility, or simply hope for a miracle. But leading experts on climate change warn that inaction will take a severe toll on humanity and the planet that sustains it. Consequences of a warming planet are already affecting school communities, as severe weather disrupts learning time and teenagers report growing levels of climate anxiety.
What can school and district leaders do? A lot, it turns out.
Schools have a big role to play in reducing emissions of harmful greenhouse gases that cause an overload of carbon dioxide. The nation’s schools annually emit as much carbon as 18 coal plants or 8 million homes, according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Energy data by the advocacy group Generation180. They also waste 530,000 tons of food a year, the World Wildlife Fund reports. And nearly 95 percent of school buses run on diesel fuel, whose environmental harms are well-documented.
Schools can take actions now that will help keep students, staff, and school buildings safe when severe weather powered by climate change comes knocking. They can empower future generations to pay attention to the world around them and fight for a more conscientious approach to living on earth.
Schools don’t have to do any of these things alone. But they do need motivation and support. With the help of more than a dozen experts on school building facilities, climate change impacts, and student advocacy, Education Week has identified some of the key barriers to action, and ideas for overcoming those barriers.
For starters, don't assume change is too difficult.
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