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Climate Change Threatens Education Outcomes: World Bank

Climate change is significantly impacting education, leading to increased school closures, hindering learning, and necessitating urgent action to protect students' right to education.

Saurabh Shukla
Climate Change Threatens Education Outcomes: World Bank (Photo Source: Pixabay)
Climate Change Threatens Education Outcomes: World Bank (Photo Source: Pixabay)

The effects of climate change on education are becoming more and more obvious as it causes catastrophe across the world. The World Bank recently released a policy note that highlights the alarming trend of how climate change is eroding education outcomes, increasing the number of school closures, and hindering learning even in the cases when schools are open.

At least 75% of the extreme weather events that have affected at least 5 million people over the last 20 years have resulted in school closures, according to the data presented in the policy statement. Whether it's heatwaves, flooding, pollution, or other environmental crises, schools are frequently forced to shut their doors, disrupting students' education and leaving them vulnerable to falling behind.

But the problem doesn't end with school closures. Even when schools manage to stay open, rising temperatures can hamper learning. Research from various countries highlights how extreme heat can negatively impact students' cognitive abilities and overall learning outcomes. Moreover, climate change contributes to increased diseases, stress, and conflict, further undermining educational attainment.

The consequences of this climate-related erosion of education are far-reaching. The most vulnerable people are disproportionately impacted by lower educational attainment, which also has an adverse effect on future incomes and productivity. Studies have shown that each additional year of schooling is associated with a significant increase in earnings, highlighting the crucial link between education and economic well-being.

Despite the clear urgency of the issue, many policymakers fail to prioritize climate adaptation within the education sector. A survey covering education policymakers from 28 low- and middle-income countries revealed that the protection of learning from climate change ranks low on their list of priorities. This lack of prioritization is concerning, considering the profound impact of education on individuals and societies.

Countries and communities worldwide are exploring various approaches to mitigate the impact of climate change on education. From implementing air conditioning units to painting rooftops with reflective paint and modifying school schedules, there are numerous strategies that can help create a more climate-resilient education system.

However, investing in climate resilience within the education sector requires significant resources. While there are no precise global figures available, estimates suggest that the education sector faces annual financial losses of billions of dollars due to climate-related damages. In countries like the Philippines, thousands of classrooms are damaged each year due to typhoons and floods, highlighting the urgent need for action.

As we look to the future, it's clear that waiting for climate mitigation efforts to take effect is not an option for the millions of children who need access to quality education now. Governments must prioritize and invest in building climate-resilient education systems to ensure that learning can continue in the face of increasingly frequent and severe weather events.

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