FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 02, 2023
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Mar. 02, 2023) — Today, a coalition of more than fifty stakeholders released a new report urging California leaders to make a cost-effective, ten-year $150 billion investment to ensure TK–12 public schools can remain open, safe, and healthy places for children as the impacts of climate change become more frequent and extreme.
Led by the Action Lab for Planetary Health at Stanford Medicine’s Center for Innovation in Global Health, the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Cities + Schools, Stanford University’s Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research, Ten Strands, and UndauntedK12, the report, Climate-Resilient California Schools: A Call to Action, is the first comprehensive study of climate-driven impacts on children in California that addresses the full scope of the problem, while laying out an immediately actionable plan, drawing together research from the pediatric, public health, climate, and education sectors. Four statewide workshops gathered input from state agency leaders, educators, students, and technical partners. The report calls on state leaders to develop a master plan that aligns strategic investments in the state’s school system with its public health and climate mitigation goals. Through actionable next steps and 14 recommendations reflecting three essential dimensions of school — campus, community, and curriculum — this new report lays out solutions to improve health and education outcomes for students, return savings to school districts, and grow jobs in sustainable, future-facing industries.
“There is no question that climate change poses a serious risk to children’s health, and all schools must be equipped to protect kids’ health and learning as much as possible,” said Lisa Patel, M.D., clinical associate professor of pediatrics at the Stanford School of Medicine. “The evidence laid out in this report points to the urgent need for climate-resilient schools. Wildfire smoke is about 10 times more harmful to children’s health than regular air pollution. Climate science now predicts a 50% increase in smoke exposure, and as a pediatrician, I anticipate a similar increase in the number of children needing hospital treatment for respiratory illnesses. This is a devastating reality that we must be prepared to tackle.”
“School shutdowns disrupt our kids’ learning and harm their mental health. COVID-19 proved that beyond doubt,” said Jeff Vincent, co-founder of UC Berkeley’s Center for Cities + Schools. “Now we need to make all our schools climate-resilient. That means our state lawmakers have to take serious action because many of our schools are poorly equipped to keep students and staff healthy and safe. If we don’t act boldly, then California’s children will continue to suffer preventable disruptions.”
“Most of California’s schools were built long before anyone knew anything about climate change,” said Jonathan Klein, co-founder of UndauntedK12. “These buildings were not designed to handle things like wildfire smoke and extreme heat. In fact, two in five students attend schools that don’t meet basic facilities standards. As global warming intensifies and severe weather becomes increasingly frequent, it will become more and more difficult for California’s aging schools to maintain conditions that are safe, healthy, and conducive to learning.”
“California’s schools need more support and investments in order to minimize ongoing disruptions to learning,” said Andra Yeghoian, chief innovation officer at Ten Strands. “They must also provide equitable access to safe and healthy spaces for children, youth, and adults to learn and play. This $150 billion investment would be a win-win, as TK–12 school campuses would catch up with other sectors and industries. It will also allow schools to become a laboratory for learning about sustainable and climate-resilient practices, and schools can serve as a catalyst for accelerating transformative change within communities.”
Growing evidence suggests that the results of climate challenges on school campuses and among students are already here: a 2020 study found that only about 15% of classrooms studied met the indoor air quality ventilation standard. While all students deserve safe and healthy schools, it is imperative that climate-resilient schools ensure that socioeconomically disadvantaged children are not disproportionately vulnerable to harm and disruption from climate-driven threats. An estimated 5% of the gap in standardized test scores between Black and Hispanic students and their white counterparts can be attributed to disproportionate exposure to excessively hot classroom air.
For children growing up in California today, the impacts of climate change are as close as the air they breathe. Experts agree the state has tremendous work to do in order to keep our aging school buildings open, healthy, and conducive to learning in the face of a rapidly changing climate.
To find out more and to read the report, go to https://www.climatereadyschoolscoalition.org/ourwork/climate-resilient-schools-report.
The Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research at Stanford University aims to propel innovation in allergy research. The first of its kind in the world, the Center’s mission is to find better treatments and ultimately a cure for allergies.
The Center for Innovation in Global Health at Stanford University enables emerging leaders and multi-disciplinary researchers to solve global health challenges and improve health equity.
UC Berkeley’s Center for Cities + Schools is an interdisciplinary, action-research center, linking the fields of city planning and K-12 education. The center advances policies and practices that create opportunity-rich environments, both in and out of schools, where young people of all backgrounds can thrive.
Ten Strands is a California–based nonprofit established in 2012. Our mission is to build and strengthen the partnerships and strategies that will bring environmental literacy to all of California’s TK–12 public school students. We operate with a small, diverse, and nimble staff and strategic partners throughout the state. Ten Strands utilizes the largest and most diverse institution in California—the public school system—to impact 58 county offices of education, more than 1,000 school districts, approximately 10,000 individual schools, over 300,000 teachers, and 5.8 million children. Learn more at www.tenstrands.org.
UndauntedK12 is a national nonprofit with a mission to support America’s K-12 public schools to make an equitable transition to zero carbon emissions while preparing our youth to build a sustainable future in a rapidly changing climate. Learn more at www.undauntedk12.org.