• Sustainability
  • Climate Change
  • Climate Action

Climate Change Resilience: Back to School

Sarah Hendel-Blackford
Sep 19, 2019


Never stop asking questions; that’s what I tell my kids. Since Greta Thunberg began her school strikes in 2018 due to lack of action by global leaders on climate change, children, students, and young adults have continued to ask the questions—demanding answers and action from everyone on how to prevent further climate change. 

Summer 2019 has not only included heatwaves across Europe with record breaking temperatures being broken multiple times in a week but also wildfires burning simultaneously in Brazil and the Arctic. No wonder people feel overwhelmed and powerless in the face of these impacts. On September 20, many will be absent from school and work to instead participate in a global climate strike as people demand a step change so climate action can be taken at a faster pace on a larger scale.

What Can We Do?

The good news is that there are practical and proven solutions that can be implemented to improve our resilience to the impacts we already face and to reduce the risk of future climate change. At the start of the summer holidays, I was inspired to learn that planting trees on a global scale has “mind-blowing potential” to tackle climate change, absorbing two-thirds of human-induced emissions in the atmosphere. This is the first study to evaluate the number of trees that could be planted without encroaching on land used to grow food or on urban areas; it is “overwhelmingly the top solution” to tackle climate emissions at the least cost. 

The Global Commission on Adaptation report found that a $1.8 trillion investment in just five solutions against climate impacts would reap dividends of $7.1 trillion. Those measures are real, tangible, and proven, and include the following:

  1. Early warming systems
  2. Climate-resilient infrastructure
  3. Improved dryland agriculture crop production
  4. Global mangrove protection
  5. Investments in making water resources more resilient 

As I mentioned in my masterclass on Ecoystem-based Adaptation to the city officials of Hanoi this week, four of the five measures above are focused on, or enabled by, nature-based solutions.

Some Homework on Climate Change

As my kids start a new school year, their teachers have assigned me some homework, as well: I’ve been invited to their schools to give a lesson or two on climate change. What do you tell a few hundred young people ages 3 to 16 about climate change (did I mention this will be done in French)? Yes, it is urgent and yes, it is our biggest challenge yet, but as one teacher told me: make it practical enough for the kids to understand and inspire them to act. To tackle my personal challenge, I will be contacting the Climate Change Teaching Academy. For additional inspiration, I discussed how to address climate action in schools with colleagues working on the BEACON project as well. 

As we transition from a fiery summer into autumn amid a global crisis, I see opportunity. The energy and commitment of people supporting the global climate strike, together with a range of tangible, proven solutions available to us all starts in our back yards. This is my focus for autumn—both at work and with my kids.