Educating girls ranks #6 on Drawdown’s list of climate solutions. By 2050, if universal education is achieved in low- and lower-middle-income countries, educating girls can eliminate 59.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide, with costs and savings that are both incalculable.
Education is a basic human right. And when effort and investment are directed to educating women and girls, the gains for communities and the environment can be substantial, Drawdown notes. Educating girls leads to economic growth, and also to lower population rates, since educated women will not only have healthier babies, but fewer of them.
That makes education “the most powerful lever available for breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty, while mitigating emissions by curbing population growth,” Drawdown states.
Communities’ capacity for climate resilience will also gain from universal education for girls. In many societies, women play an important role in caring for the land. With a combination of traditional knowledge and formal education, future generations of women will be that much better equipped to confront climate change and its impacts.
But despite wide and longstanding recognition of the need to educate girls, obstacles remain. Many families cannot afford school fees and expenses, or still rely on girls for their labour. Cultural beliefs about gender roles continue to value boys’ education over girls’. And traveling long distances to get to school can be dangerous and uncomfortable for many girls.
Yet Drawdown stresses that improving girls’ access to and quality of education is crucial to addressing these barriers. Eliminating school fees, giving out bicycles to get to school, providing child care and other needed health care services at schools, and raising community awareness are just some of the solutions the chapter puts forward to make education more accessible.
Today, 62 million girls are still denied access to education. That number points to the important connections between school, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and family planning. As Drawdown makes clear, educating girls would not only fulfill a basic human right, but also secure a better future for families, communities, and the global environment.