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International Day of Education

Our children’s planet: What does their education have to do with climate change?

Christopher Thomas's picture
 Khasar Sandag / World Bank
Photo: Khasar Sandag / World Bank

Our world is very different than our grandparent’s. In 1950, there were about 2.5 billion people; today, there are more than 7 billion. Overall, people are healthier, wealthier, and more secure.

But this has come at a cost. The stress on our planet has been immense. Human beings have dramatically altered the climate, changed the chemistry of the oceans, and triggered mass extinctions. The impact has been so great as to define an entirely new geological era – the Anthropocene, turbo charged by a “great acceleration” of population, economic growth and natural resource consumption since the 1950s.

So what will the world be like for our children? By 2050, the population is projected to top 9 billion. People will probably live better and longer lives. Global GDP will likely triple; natural resource consumption will double. And the effects of climate change–some now inevitable–will be felt more strongly than they are today. Sea levels will be higher, weather more erratic, biodiversity less, and water and natural resources likely scarcer. People who live in poverty will be especially vulnerable to natural disasters, land degradation, water shortages, and shocks in food production.