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Education and Equity

A critical but somewhat overlooked aspect of addressing climate change is education. One of the primary delays in establishing robust climate change action has been the prevalence of misinformation and a lack of general understanding of the earth system1-4.

The dynamics and interactions between the different components of the earth system are intricate and multi-faceted. Adding in the effects of human activity and feedbacks on different spatial and temporal scales—not to mention local, national, international, and global hurdles in policy and coordination—creates much complexity5,6.

Education for all ages about the climate and our interactions with it fosters a better understanding of climate change and encourages behavior and attitude shifts leading to more effective adaptation and mitigation responses7-9. This is as true for adults long finished with school as it is for children and teens that will inherit these problems10,11.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change states, “education, especially when focused on children and young people, is a key factor in helping to curb climate change”12. All 193 United Nations members adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 to be achieved by 2030 for “peace and prosperity of people and the planet, now and into the future”13. While individual countries are responsible for meeting these 17 goals, the effort is global. Alongside poverty, food security, education, and gender equality, addressing climate change is one of the main aims. These goals are a way for developing and developed nations alike to come together and engage with our shared problems extending beyond arbitrary lines drawn on a map14,15.

An important aspect to remember in climate education and sustainable development is equity. Most developed nations became so through the use of natural resources, which significantly contributed to the current climate situation16,17. A topic of contention is that some believe that currently developing nations need to be given the same opportunities to gain equal footing, while others state that developing nations have the advantage of learning from other’s mistakes and should therefore take more sustainable, but potentially less economically robust, paths18-23.

This subject flows into the idea of justice and deciding which nations hold more responsibility towards global greenhouse gas emissions and should be required to take more substantial steps in curbing them24-26. Much of the current climate situation was brought about by exploiting vulnerable and disenfranchised groups17,27,28. Marginalized groups are disproportionally at risk to suffer the brunt of the negative physical and socioeconomic consequences of climate change29-32. This is especially true as changing climate niches worldwide are projected to cause massive migrations leaving areas with more at-risk populations the most vulnerable to more frequent and severe extreme weather events33-36. Studies agree that addressing equity and climate change go hand-in-hand8,28,37.

Learn more about climate education, sustainability, justice, and equity through the studies and books referenced above and the resources included below.


  1. Van der Linden, S., A. Leiserowitz, S. Rosenthal, and E. Maibach. 2017. Inoculating the public against misinformation about climate change. Global Challenges Wiley Online Library: 1600008.
  2. Benegal, S. D., and L. A. Scruggs. 2018. Correcting misinformation about climate change: The impact of partisanship in an experimental setting. Climatic change Springer: 61–80.
  3. Cook, J., P. Ellerton, and D. Kinkead. 2018. Deconstructing climate misinformation to identify reasoning errors. Environmental Research Letters IOP Publishing: 024018.
  4. Farrell, J., K. McConnell, and R. Brulle. 2019. Evidence-based strategies to combat scientific misinformation. Nature climate change Nature Publishing Group: 191–195.
  5. Schreiner, C., E. K. Henriksen, and P. J. Kirkeby Hansen. 2005. Climate education: Empowering today’s youth to meet tomorrow’s challenges. Taylor & Francis.
  6. Stevenson, R. B., J. Nicholls, and H. Whitehouse. 2017. What is climate change education? Curriculum Perspectives Springer: 67–71.
  7. Cordero, E. C., A. M. Todd, and D. Abellera. 2008. Climate change education and the ecological footprint. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society American Meteorological Society: 865–872.
  8. Berrang-Ford, L., J. D. Ford, and J. Paterson. 2011. Are we adapting to climate change? Global environmental change Elsevier: 25–33.
  9. Anderson, A. 2012. Climate change education for mitigation and adaptation. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development Sage Publications Sage India: New Delhi, India: 191–206.
  10. Pruneau, D., H. Gravel, W. Bourque, and J. Langis. 2003. Experimentation with a socio-constructivist process for climate change education. Environmental Education Research Taylor & Francis: 429–446.
  11. Monroe, M. C., R. R. Plate, A. Oxarart, A. Bowers, and W. A. Chaves. 2019. Identifying effective climate change education strategies: A systematic review of the research. Environmental Education Research Taylor & Francis: 791–812.
  12. UN 2022. Education is key to addressing climate change. United Nations. United Nations.
  13. SDG, U. 2018. Sustainable development goals. United Nations.
  14. Robert, K. W., T. M. Parris, and A. A. Leiserowitz. 2005. What is sustainable development? Goals, indicators, values, and practice. Environment: science and policy for sustainable development Taylor & Francis: 8–21.
  15. Sachs, J. D. 2012. From millennium development goals to sustainable development goals. The lancet Elsevier: 2206–2211.
  16. Smit, B., and O. Pilifosova. 2003. Adaptation to climate change in the context of sustainable development and equity. Sustainable Development 8: 9.
  17. Thomas, D. S., and C. Twyman. 2005. Equity and justice in climate change adaptation amongst natural-resource-dependent societies. Global environmental change Elsevier: 115–124.
  18. Ravindranath, N. H., and J. A. Sathaye. 2002. Climate change and developing countries. In Climate Change and Developing Countries, 247–265. Springer.
  19. Swart, R., J. Robinson, and S. Cohen. 2003. Climate change and sustainable development: expanding the options. Climate policy Taylor & Francis: S19–S40.
  20. Page, E. A. 2007. Climate change, justice and future generations. Edward Elgar Publishing.
  21. Mertz, O., K. Halsnæs, J. E. Olesen, and K. Rasmussen. 2009. Adaptation to climate change in developing countries. Environmental management Springer: 743–752.
  22. Ayers, J., and D. Dodman. 2010. Climate change adaptation and development I: the state of the debate. Progress in Development studies SAGE Publications Sage India: New Delhi, India: 161–168.
  23. Parks, B. C., and J. T. Roberts. 2010. Climate change, social theory and justice. Theory, Culture & Society SAGE Publications Sage UK: London, England: 134–166.
  24. Cazorla, M., and M. Toman. 2001. International equity and climate change policy. Climate change economics and policy: An RFF anthology Resource For the Future Washington, DC.
  25. Posner, E. A., and C. R. Sunstein. 2007. Climate change justice. LJ 96. HeinOnline: 1565.
  26. Schlosberg, D., and L. B. Collins. 2014. From environmental to climate justice: climate change and the discourse of environmental justice. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change Wiley Online Library: 359–374.
  27. Bodansky, D. 2001. The history of the global climate change regime. International relations and global climate change MIT Press Cambridge, MA: 505.
  28. Klinsky, S., T. Roberts, S. Huq, C. Okereke, P. Newell, P. Dauvergne, K. O’Brien, H. Schroeder, and others 2017. Why equity is fundamental in climate change policy research. Global Environmental Change 44: 170–173.
  29. Füssel, H.-M. 2007. Vulnerability: A generally applicable conceptual framework for climate change research. Global environmental change Elsevier: 155–167.
  30. Cutter, S. L., B. J. Boruff, and W. L. Shirley. 2012. Social vulnerability to environmental hazards.
  31. Kasperson, R. E., and J. X. Kasperson. 2012. Climate change, vulnerability and social justice.2019. Global assessment report on disaster risk reduction. United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). Geneva.
  32. Warner, K., M. Hamza, A. Oliver-Smith, F. Renaud, and A. Julca. 2010. Climate change, environmental degradation and migration. Natural Hazards Springer: 689–715.
  33. Brzoska, M., and C. Fröhlich. 2016. Climate change, migration and violent conflict: vulnerabilities, pathways and adaptation strategies. Migration and Development Taylor & Francis: 190–210.
  34. Fan, Q., K. Fisher-Vanden, and H. A. Klaiber. 2018. Climate change, migration, and regional economic impacts in the United States. Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists University of Chicago Press Chicago, IL: 643–671.
  35. Wing, O. E., W. Lehman, P. D. Bates, C. C. Sampson, N. Quinn, A. M. Smith, J. C. Neal, J. R. Porter, and others 2022. Inequitable patterns of US flood risk in the Anthropocene. Nature Climate Change. Nature Publishing Group: 1–7.
  36. Robinson, J. B., and D. Herbert. 2001. Integrating climate change and sustainable development. International Journal of Global Environmental Issues Inderscience Publishers: 130–149.