The Alliance for Climate Education begins ambitious campaign to educate America’s youth about Climate Change

The Alliance for Climate Education (ACE)””an Oakland-based non-profit””announced this week the start of its grassroots initiative “aimed at educating and empowering students to address global climate change.” These are noble goals, to say the least. It is hard to overstate the importance of informing the public about the realities of global warming and the consequences of not changing our energy consumption habits. ACE’s campaign will target high school-age youths””a smart strategy considering younger generations will inherit the climate that their parents leave behind.

There are other reasons why America’s youth are crucial to establishing a societal movement towards a clean energy economy. Young people are able to develop an intuitive understanding of global warming’s problems and solutions before their thoughts and habits are cemented in the modern routine of high-energy consumption. Youth movements can be especially potent forces in altering popular perceptions and influencing congressional representatives. Michael Haas, the founder of ACE, seems to understand this and has set his organization’s goals accordingly. He says:

ACE is built on the belief that young people can have a substantial near-term positive impact on the global climate crisis. The magnitude of the challenges facing our planet is great, and we are running out of time to act. I believe leaders around the world will listen to the collective voices of our youth.

Haas’ words have an effective mix of urgency and optimism needed to nurture an activist mentality. If ACE’s message only touted gloomy forecasts it could convince its audience that nothing can be done to stop catastrophe, but if too positive, it runs the risk of not prompting immediate action. Here are two sentences that exemplify this balance from their recent news release:

Overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that global warming is accelerating and requires immediate, sustained, and decisive action to curb its potentially devastating effects. ACE educates youth on this important issue, helps to channel their energy and passion into a single voice and common network, and empowers youth to make a significant impact on the future.

ACE will send “trained educators” to give interactive presentations in Bay Area high-schools in the coming months, reaching an estimated 10,000 students by the end of the school year. The organization will also award $2,500 scholarships to high-school juniors and seniors who “take leadership roles in curbing the acceleration of climate change.” Sounds like a good idea to me. Any meaningful, lasting change in how we consume energy in this country must be attached to an economic mechanism to be effective. So showing young people that they can actually make money by curtailing global warming is a great way to encourage their sustained interest and activism.

Along with scholarships for individuals, ACE will give grants to schools that lead efforts in fighting global warming. These incentives echo the effects of placing a price on carbon and making efficiency pay dividends for businesses.

Blakey Atherton, ACE’s Executive Director, says that students and teachers have shown tremendous interest in the new campaign. This swell in concern for climate change further bolsters the director’s enthusiasm. “Once they understand the changes taking place in our climate,” he says, “young people are motivated to act because they see that their ideas and solutions can counter the effects of climate change. Students understand that their future depends on actions taken today.”

Hopefully ACE will succeed in spreading good ideas and solutions among young people around the country. The non-profit will be expanding its program to a national level, aiming to reach two million students by the end of 2011.

— Carlin Rosengarten

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