Learning about climate change can help youth become active global citizens — Part 1

Learning about Goal 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals can help inform youth as active global citizens.

Image provided by globalgoals.org
Image provided by globalgoals.org

Summer has arrived in the United States, and temperatures are on the rise. While summer has always been a time to enjoy activities that warm weather makes possible, it can also be a great time for young people to consider how our planet’s climate is changing and the role they can have in addressing the issue as active global citizens.

Today’s youth are experiencing a world unlike the one their parents and grandparents knew when they were growing up. According to NASA, “The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century. Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001.”

According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Nobel Peace Prize winning international body that “assesses the science related to climate change,” human activity resulting in the release of greenhouse gas emissions, along with other human activities affecting the planet, are “extremely likely” to have been the primary cause of the warming of our planet’s atmosphere since the 1950s.

The effects of a changing global climate, such as shrinking glaciers, shifting animal and plant ranges, loss of sea ice coverage, accelerating sea level rise, and more intense heat waves, are already being observed. Scientists, such as those on the IPCC have found that “continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and long-lasting impacts for people and ecosystems.”

World leaders, representing citizens from 193 countries, have agreed “to take urgent action to combat climate change and it’s impact,” which is embodied in Goal 13 of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals. The Sustainable Development Goals are 17 interconnected goals that seek to transform our world by ending all forms of poverty, eliminating inequalities and improving the state of the world’s natural and human-made environments through sustained international cooperation and efforts by the year 2030.

By learning about, taking action and teaching others about climate change, young people can play a valuable leadership role in helping to accomplish Goal 13, as well as the other Sustainable Development Goals.

Here are some important facts and figures, and some related educational ideas, concerning Goal 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals that can help youth learn and be engaged as global citizens:

  • According to NASA, the average global surface temperature of the Earth has increased by 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, when record keeping began. “The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia,” says NASA.
  • The sea level has increased by about 8 inches over the last 100 years, and the rate of increase in the past 20 years was nearly twice that of the last century, according to the IPCC.
  • “Most climate scientists agree the main cause of the current global warming trend is human expansion of the ‘greenhouse effect’ — warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space,” says NASA.
  • Based on available scientific data, climate experts are able to predict that the likely impact of climate change on the U.S. in the years ahead. According to the most recent National Climate Assessment from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, temperatures will continue to rise over the coming decades, the length of the growing season will increase in the United States, more heavy precipitation events, droughts and heat waves are likely, as well as more intense hurricanes.
  • In order to minimize the potential negative impacts of global climate change, many scientists believe we must take action to ensure that average global temperature does not increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius. According to the UN, “It is still possible, using a wide array of technological measures and changes in behavior, to limit the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”

To continue reading Part 2 of this article, go to "Learning about climate change can help youth become active global citizens – Part 2"

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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