Do schools have the capacity to teach adaptation to climate change?

Researchers are embarking on a project to determine the skills needed to curb climate change and adapt to it, and the ways these skills are learned in the Finnish school system.

A multidisciplinary research group coordinated by the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research INAR at the University of Helsinki is embarking on an investigation of the capacity of the Finnish school system to teach how to adapt to climate change. The ClimComp project was granted €500,000 in funding by the Academy of Finland for 2021–2024. The progress of the project, headed by Academy Professor Markku Kulmala, can be followed on a dedicated website.

“In a changing world, we need new skills to be able to face the challenge posed by climate change. We aim to provide recommendations on how the school system should be reformed for us to be able to curb climate change as efficiently as possible and adapt to the challenges it brings,” says Postdoctoral Researcher Laura Riuttanen from the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research INAR.

Contributing to the project are atmospheric scientists, specialists in climate modelling and education as well as psychologists, who will study moments optimal for learning in environments associated with project-based learning, research–practice partnerships and web-based learning among young people. The researchers also aim to develop new tools for climate-related learning targeted at the age group.

“Climate change affects us all, but children and adolescents are the most vulnerable people, as their psychosocial development is still ongoing and they are dependent on adults. Through methods employed in educational sciences, we are able to increase understanding of climate change’s impact on young people and how to support them in adapting to it,” says Professor Katariina Salmela-Aro from the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki.

Increasing knowledge is not enough

Professor Jari Lavonen from the Faculty of Educational Sciences points out that increasing knowledge pertaining to climate change is not enough.

“Understanding and preventing climate change is based on values, knowledge, skills, attitudes and volition. These elements help individuals apply critical and independent thinking as well as act responsibly, compassionately, inclusively and successfully. The development of teaching requires cooperation on all levels among researchers specialised in climate change, learning and in human behaviour.”

INAR already has solid expertise in disseminating information pertaining to the climate. Climate University, a network coordinated by Laura Riuttanen, provides everyone with the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the basics of climate change and sustainability, as well as to obtain skills required for changing the world.

Read more:

ClimComp project website

Climate University module

Yhdentoista korkeakoulun tuottamat kestävyys- ja ilmastokurssit yhdestä paikasta (‘Sustainability and climate courses by 11 universities in one place’, article in Finnish only)

Laura Riuttaselle avoimen tieteen palkinto 2020 (‘Laura Riuttanen receives the Open Science Award in 2020’, article in Finnish only)

Further information:

Laura Riuttanen

Postdoctoral researcher, Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research INAR, University of Helsinki

+358 2941 51663

Katariina Salmela-Aro

Professor, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki

+358 2941 23255