Global Environ. Change 41, 111–123 (2016)

Credit: Heather Randell

Educational attainment can expand skills and labour opportunities, and is thus an important pathway out of poverty. However, school attendance in low-income countries is influenced by nutrition in early childhood and demands for child labour in agricultural activities. Thus, climate change may be a barrier to development to the extent that it influences agricultural productivity, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where fluctuations in temperature and precipitation due to climate change are expected.

Heather Randell from the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, USA, and her co-author examine how temperature and precipitation variability relative to historical norms during the first seven years of life influence schooling outcomes in rural Ethiopia. Analysis of data from the Ethiopian Rural Household Survey and high-resolution gridded climate data shows that experiencing summer drought and average spring and summer temperatures above a village's long-term mean reduces the odds of completing at least one grade of school. Because future climate change is expected to increase heat waves and precipitation variability during critical seasons for agriculture, policies like providing drought and heat-tolerant crops may help buffer against negative socioeconomic impacts of climate change in this region.