Delhi-based sustainable development practitioner Rozita Singh recently got back after a 12-day expedition to Antarctica. The head of solutions mapping, accelerator lab of the United Nations Development Programme in India spotted a peculiar problem that earth’s southernmost continent is facing—the penguins there risk freezing to death.
“Excessive rainfall in Antarctica has been observed over the last few years. This is a huge problem for penguins. Snow is quite easy for them to clean from their down feathers but when it rains, it gets muddy and mud is extremely difficult to clean. If they have a lot of mud covering their body, they are at a very high risk of freezing to death,” says Singh.
This is just one of the many collateral damages of the havoc wreaked by the emission of greenhouse gases by the industries and vehicles and different forms of pollution across the globe. Over the past few years, pollution has been accelerating the impact of the climate crisis, now touching the untouched—even the penguins of Antarctica.
Countries around the world struggle with pollution and its menace. Take the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch, for instance. The pile of marine debris and plastic waste, which has built up in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California, has grown to occupy 1.6 million kilometers—half the size of the Indian landmass.
Speaking of India, the country has not been doing particularly great either. The World Air Quality Report 2021, prepared by Swiss organization IQAir, placed 35 Indian cities in the top 50 of the world’s most polluted cities list. Last year, India made a bold environmental statement by setting 2070 as its target year for net-zero emissions at the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Glasgow. A recent study by Standard Chartered Financial Services pointed out that India will need $12.4 trillion dollars to meet its long-term net-zero goals.
The dangers of the climate crisis and the price countries will have to pay to curb it are becoming more and more evident. There is a dire need for skilled individuals, trained in the field of environmental protection and climate change, to show the way forward.
Education To The Rescue
As focus shifts to the environment, the importance of education required to train people in disciplines related to the field has gone up.
In India, the National Curriculum Framework, 2005 made it mandatory to introduce Environment Studies (EVS) as a subject for classes three to five where “in the study of the natural environment, emphasis will be on its preservation and the urgency of saving it from degradation”. Post that, till the 10th grade, while there is no compulsory subject, the aspects of EVS are merged into subjects like science and social science. Once in college, specific upgraded elements of the subject appear only in the syllabus of the ones who choose courses that enable them to build a career in spaces like environmental engineering, environmental science, landscape architecture, conservation science, and urban planning, among others.
“Climate risks and climate impact differ across regions and the solutions need to be context-specific. One technology or policy will not fit all,” says Dr. Miniya Chatterji, director, Centre for Sustainability and Anant Fellowship for Climate Action, Anant University.
As the drive to save the environment gathers steam in the future, there will be a huge demand for these individuals equipped to deal with different aspects and in different contexts and areas.
In India, institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology-Mumbai, Manipal Institute of Technology, College of Engineering in Pune, SRM University in Chennai, and Anant University offer good courses that train individuals in the aforementioned fields. Internationally, the University of Waterloo, University of California, Stanford University, and Harvard University are known for their courses related to the environment.
Scope In Hope
The renewable energy employment number in India stood at 7,26,000 jobs in 2020 as per the International Renewable Energy Agency jobs database. Chatterji quotes a report which says that there is a potential to create 3 million renewable energy jobs by 2030. “The World Economic Forum also supports the tremendous scope for jobs in the climate industry by forecasting that India’s transition to a green economy could potentially create 50 million jobs by 2070, representing upwards of a $15-trillion economic opportunity,” she adds.
Talking about the career prospects in the sector, Janet Matta, head of careers, Terra.do, an online climate school, says, “There is a need for nearly all job and career types in climate companies working on climate solutions. Within climate tech companies, the biggest needs we see for hiring are in software development, engineering, data science or analytics, people operations, and sales because all skills are useful for climate action.’’
As the Indian government tightens rules and regulations related to environmental protection, there will also be a massive demand for talent with environment-related expertise even in the public sector.