Unlocking The Three Levels of Climate Knowledge: Moving From Awareness to Action
Unlocking The Three Levels of Climate Knowledge: Moving From Awareness to Action
California wildfires, Asia monsoons, and ever-stronger heat waves in Europe all emphasize the threat of environmental collapse. With borderline unmanageable projections for the future, the issue of climate change needs our immediate attention.
Climate change describes the global, long-haul alterations of the Earth's natural climate patterns. Since the 1800s and the onset of the Industrial Revolution, these alterations have been mainly driven by human activities, which have led to an increased release of greenhouse gasses into the Earth's lower atmosphere.
Like the glass walls of a greenhouse, gasses like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide trap the Sun's heat inside the Earth's atmosphere. While this is a naturally occurring process that helps maintain the Earth's average surface temperature, the abnormal upsurge of greenhouse gasses tilts the balance towards unfavorable climates, contributing to raised temperatures and global warming.
Climate change awareness is a step in the right direction. But turning the page to action is the key to fighting climate change and the answer to generating sustainable changes for humanity and the planet.
From your daily coffee run to the 10-year-old Dr. Martens that took you there, almost every action you partake in affects global warming. Here, we help you navigate through the three levels of climate knowledge: awareness, understanding, and action.
Think about melting icebergs, intense droughts, rising sea levels, or hurricanes and what they mean to you. Climate awareness refers to our understanding and consciousness about climate change. It is the foundation for actionable solutions, and it involves recognizing the causes, risks, and outcomes of climate change and global warming.
Raising awareness about climate change is a multifaceted movement. Education and the media have cardinal roles in supporting the spread of climate knowledge and encouraging individuals to think about climate change. Whether by translating complex scientific jargon into accessible knowledge, sharing impactful climate-related cases, or uncovering unsustainable practices and behaviors, such as overproduction of goods, education and the media help promote public climate awareness and advocacy.
According to a report from Statista, 74% of adults in the United States believe global warming is happening. Globally, over two-thirds of adults perceive climate change as a threat. Despite slow increases over the last decades, these numbers highlight the advantages of encouraging climate awareness, a reality brought about by ever-increasing international debates, global warming campaigns, and other efforts to disseminate climate knowledge.
Climate awareness is just the starting point. Without accountability and intention, it alone cannot translate into action. Moving beyond climate awareness requires a more comprehensive approach that tackles deeply rooted societal, political, and economic beliefs and values.
Climate understanding describes the in-depth learning of the fundamental scientific knowledge and principles of climate change. These principles explain the Earth's natural temperature and weather patterns and how these are affected by global warming. Beyond this, climate understanding strives to demonstrate the relevance of climate change in other aspects, such as scientific, social, environmental, and economic.
Not only does real climate understanding strip away skepticism and misunderstanding among the public, it also develops avenues for creating climate change strategies and informed decision-making.
Scientific research has revealed fundamental and advanced climate knowledge. In the late 1800s, scientist Eunice Foote first discovered and explained what we now know as the greenhouse effect, a crucial concept of climate science. Well-researched physical processes and documented past events have served as foundations for many climate models that aim to understand climate change and predict the likelihood of future climates. Such models use different storylines, such as exponential human population growth or consumerism, and anticipate the climate conditions resulting from said scenarios.
Digging to the core of climate understanding is a portal for making better choices. When we understand the effects of our actions, we naturally become much more intentional about them. For instance, understanding the climate significance of imported produce can encourage us to shop local or consume seasonal produce, immediately reducing our individual and collective carbon footprint.
Numerous resources are available to support our understanding of climate change and global warming. Here are some suggestions:
- Netflix's Our Planet featuring Sir David Attenborough
- The Climate Question Podcast on Spotify
- Coursera's short and long courses on climate-related topics
Our individual and collective efforts against climate change are the foundations of climate action — it requires sky-high accountability and measurable steps.
Net climate action reflects the pooled measures taken to mitigate global warming. From waste reduction and recycling to the enforcement of climate-friendly policies, small steps can lead to large-scale transformations, illustrating that climate action can fight climate change at all levels.
At the individual level, small behavioral changes can look like opting to ride the metro to work instead of driving a car or committing to making sustainable fashion choices. At the community level, promoting eco-friendly practices can eventually lead to nationwide cultural changes. For example, Copenhagen's remarkable urban planning is a prime example of a country's commitment to sustainable transportation and reducing carbon emissions. By creating bike lanes and introducing extensive rental bicycle systems, Copenhagen has embraced a now well-known cycling culture.
The Green Way Forward: Overcoming Barriers and Devising Solutions
On the brink of a global catastrophe, the symptoms of global warming will only continue to worsen if governments, communities, and individuals do not take measures to overcome the current challenges and provide sustainable solutions.
In the Climate Change for Beginners podcast, Dr. Ciarán O'Carroll addresses a key point — many believe global warming is out of our control. While we now know that we can reduce the effects of climate change, scientists believed and reported the opposite to policymakers and the public for many years. Coupled with the notion that scientists and journalists typically do not speak the same language, this likely created a lack of concern among individuals. Therefore, equipping individuals with accurate and up-to-date knowledge and finding effective communication avenues can redirect the projected outcomes of climate change from destruction to prevention.
Politics and economies heavily influence the issue of climate change and global warming. Ultimately, politicians are in charge of assigning budgets and setting policies. For example, in 2022, the world allocated $7 trillion or 7.1% of GDP to subsidize fossil fuels, a leading source of greenhouse gasses.
Under the Paris Agreement of 2015, 196 nations pledged to limit global warming well below 2°C and to pursue measures to cap such a rise below 1.5°C. Despite the slowing of global emissions in recent years, the world is not on track to meet either target, reflecting the inadequacy of current measures and the need for adopting stricter ones.
Climate change is a global issue, but it affects countries at different levels. In countries more directly exposed to the effects of global warming, like Maldives and Fiji, the landscape is bound to change from white sands and clear waters to locals fighting for their homes. Although these countries are not leading emitters, increasing global temperatures presents a life-or-death problem.
By spreading our understanding of climate issues and making greener choices, we can encourage other individuals, corporations, and governmental entities to embrace environmentally conscious practices and policies.
The Powerful Role of Education and Communication
Climate change is a concern that reaches every corner of our society. It is a problem that disrupts the fundamental systems that sustain our communities and affects ethics, economics, politics, and the occurrence of harmful events to human existence. But an unrecognized problem is seldom resolved.
Teaching and education can foster climate knowledge by building awareness, empowering advocacy, promoting more sustainable behaviors, and encouraging individuals to speak up. After all, reaching beneficial outcomes depends on successful understanding and communication.
Climate change is a complex and multidimensional issue. As such, education systems must introduce interdisciplinary approaches that show global warming's real-world relevance in every facet of human life. Doing this will nurture a holistic understanding and reinforce that global warming is not just a scientific problem.
In today's era, creative digital strategies render the best outcomes for reaching large audiences and engaging and empowering individuals to fight climate change. Visual storytelling techniques, such as infographics and films, captivate individuals as these approaches paint a picture and convey emotions using real-life stories and scenarios. Other strategies like social media campaigns and interactive platforms give users access to bite-size chunks of climate knowledge and create opportunities to explore simulations of the effects of climate change.
Get Involved: From Awareness to Action
With global effects on human life, climate change is a multidimensional problem that demands immediate action. Altered weather patterns affect virtually every aspect of life, including biodiversity, food availability, water resources, economies, and beyond.
Whether individually or collectively, attaining long-term sustainable change requires us to move through the three levels of climate knowledge—awareness, understanding, and action.
Just like a 1.5°C shift can determine the future of many countries and communities, so does your every action. With myriad opportunities for learning and involvement, unlocking climate knowledge and contributing to a greener future is at the tip of your fingers.
Visit the Net Impact job board to see how you can help fight climate change.