DUBAI // Today's young people are not to blame for the ravages of climate change, but they are the ones most likely to suffer its consequences, teachers were told yesterday. Despite the alarm having been sounded, many young people are still contributing to the problem through their hunger for cars, clothes and junk food, one expert said.
A training seminar organised by the Emirates Environmental Group addressed how teachers should approach the subject of climate change. Tasnem Khan, who teaches humanities and social science to girls at Al Dhafra Private School in Al Ain, said: "I told them climate change is irreversible. The comment that came from the girls was 'Miss, why are you scaring us?'" But Habiba al Marashi, the chairwoman of the group, said: "Climate change is a fact. It is part of life in the 21st century. It is about adaptation and about how this generation will deal with it."
The current concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere are the highest in 800,000 years. Scientists overwhelmingly agree this is causing major changes to the climate. Teachers say they have a hard time explaining the magnitude of the problem to pupils. Because of the complex science and politically charged ideas surrounding climate change, teaching it in a way that inspires positive behaviour is not easy, said Adam Cade, a director of Susted, an environmental education consultancy in Britain, who led the seminar.
"The challenge of teaching climate change is huge," said Mr Cade, who is due to deliver a public lecture in Dubai on the issue tonight. "The UK is at the top of the list since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution," he said. "Our cumulative per capita COČ contribution, as well as our total contribution, is the largest in the world. "The UK government has taken this very seriously," said Mr Cade. "As of April 1, they have added targets for schools to reduce carbon emissions. The schools are taking this very seriously now."
Mr Cade said young people remained voracious consumers of new cars, clothes and junk food. In the UAE, explaining climate change is an even more complicated matter. Teachers here have relied on traditional methods and focused on theoretical knowledge. But Ms Khan said: "Teachers are usually loaded with bureaucracy. We are losing the focus." Dr Sa'eb Khresat, a professor of soil science at Jordan University of Science and Technology, who will address teachers today, agreed that teaching methods had to change.
"Environmental awareness cannot just depend on conventional methods of teaching," he said. "You need to take students out of the rigidity of the classroom. We need to adopt tools that have more hands-on experience." In January, the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi said the UAE could lose up to six per cent of its territory before the end of the century due to rising sea levels. Unless climate change was accounted for in planning, "the economic damage to the UAE's coastal zones will be unacceptably high", the agency said.
The agency's report, compiled by researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute, said some of Abu Dhabi's most biologically productive ecosystems such as mangrove forests and seagrass beds, were at risk, while species such as the houbara bustard and marine turtle faced an increased risk of extinction. email@example.com