As we continue to move away from fossil fuels toward 100 percent renewable energy, we have seen some trends emerge, particularly regarding the jobs that will support the new clean economy.
In 2020, kids and young people need to not only understand the dangers of the climate crisis so they can be prepared for them, but also build the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in the future green economy — or risk being left behind.
“Everyone is going to need to understand [climate change] the same way you’d assume everyone in business needs to have some fluency in social media today, or that everyone would able to use a computer 20 years ago,” says Andrew Winston, author of the book The Big Pivot: Radically Practical Strategies for a Hotter, Scarcer, and More Open World.
According to a new report from E2, clean energy jobs across the country grew by more than 2 percent in 2019, bringing the total number of Americans who worked in clean energy at the time to around 3.4 million.
Prior to the beginning of the pandemic, experts were predicting that by 2030, when many of today’s youth will be entering the job market, the number of people employed in the broad renewable energy and efficiency sector could be much larger – as many as 24 million new clean energy and low-carbon jobs globally.
And while COVID-19 may have some impact on this expected growth, the renewable space remains the direction we are moving. So while many things may feel dimmed in the shadow of the pandemic right now, it’s reasonable to expect that growth in renewables and energy efficiency will continue apace.
This is great news, but in order to get these millions of new green jobs, our youth need to have the education and training to help them succeed in tomorrow’s economy.
“We don’t have the right people with the right skills in the right places,” says Daniel Kreeger, executive director of Association of Climate Change Officers.
The clean, green economy is growing, and it demands our attention. Young people need climate science education and training now to help them succeed in tomorrow’s economy. And if we do not provide it, we’re denying them the opportunity for a secure and successful future.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Climate adaptation and resilience stand out as rapidly emerging areas of employment as a result of climate change impacts. These sectors will be critical to track in tandem with jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency in the coming years.
- The educational requirements for jobs in renewables often vary from vocational training to more advanced studies in the sciences, engineering, and more. But all require a core foundational understanding of the problem and the many facets of its solution. Considering this, what exactly should we be emphasizing and promoting to our kids now?
- According to a 2016 study from the National Center for Science Education, over 70 percent of middle and high school science teachers on average devoted just one-and-a-half class hours per school year to climate change education.
- Even when climate change is taught in schools many teachers have not been given the proper training on the subject to do it justice.
“Students are very curious about climate change, they’re interested, they want to be talking about this in their classes.” said Ellen Ebert, the science, environment, and sustainability director at the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction, Washington State.
The clean energy economy will involve a large number of new and/or growing occupations spread across multiple industries (clean energy production, energy efficiency, and environmental management among them), and workers will need adequate knowledge, skills, and training to perform them.
How can we prepare today’s youth for these jobs of the future? And how can we ensure that anyone who wants one of these jobs has the opportunity and skills to get it?
The answer is providing our children with a climate education:
- All students—from elementary school through high school and college—stand to benefit greatly from learning the truth about our warming planet and also the many possible career pathways into well-paying clean energy jobs open to them.
- For our children to have a proper climate education, our teachers need to receive the proper resources and training on the subject, so they feel better equipped to teach their students about climate change.
- Brookings found that workers in clean energy earn higher and more equitable wages compared to all workers nationally, with mean hourly wages often exceeding national pay averages by 8 to 19 percent.
- As the climate crisis deepens, more employers will insist on hiring workers with “sustainability competencies, even for jobs that aren’t explicitly focused on sustainability,” said Julian Dautremont-Smith, director of programs for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. “Moreover, the fastest growing segments of many industries are sustainability oriented — renewable energy, organic agriculture, green buildings and electric vehicles. The jobs of the future are sustainability jobs.”
Why Does This All Matter
We all care about our planet and for our children. And yet, ample research has proven that we are doing a terrible job of guaranteeing a healthy future for either of them.
By showing and educating our children about how important the climate crisis is to us, we also let them know we care about their health, their future, and the relationships and interconnectedness between global issues like climate change, democracy, equity, and racial and social justice.
We all want our children to succeed in their future careers, so why not provide them with the tools and education to do so now?
Take the Next Step
Join us and tell your state’s department of education that rigorous, fact-based climate science instruction should be the norm in every K–12 classroom.
We can’t let powerful interests deprive our children of the knowledge and skills they need to navigate a warming world and help build a better, more sustainable future.
Before You Go
At Climate Reality, we work hard to create high-quality educational content like blogs, e-books, videos, and more to empower people all over the world to fight for climate solutions and stand together to drive the change we need. We are a nonprofit organization that believes there is hope in unity, and that together, we can build a safe, sustainable future.
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