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How Does Climate Change Feature in Social Work Curriculum

Climate change is a defining issue of the human age due to the challenges associated with the subject. Climate change is the long-term variations in weather and temperature patterns. Some of these shifts may be artificial or natural, depending on the solar cycle variations. However, the main issue with climate change is human activities, especially burning fossil fuels such as gas, oil, and goal. Humans emit green gas when they burn fossil fuels like a blanket wrapped around the earth. The ‘blanket’ trap heat from the sun, causing rising temperatures around the planet. Some other green gas emotions which drive the weather and temperature patterns include methane and carbon dioxide. These gases are emitted from coal and gasoline. Clearing forests and land can also lead to carbon dioxide emissions, and landfills can be a significant source of methane release. In recent days, climate change has been included in the curriculum to help with its mitigations. However, social work is one profession that has not considered inclusion. Social work is being solicited to consider the amalgamation of economic, social, and environmental priorities into procedures and policies at the curriculum level. Similarly, the profession can utilize social constructivism and pragmatism theories to mitigate climate change. A review of climate change features in the social work curriculum will be conducted and discussed through social theories, environment sustainability, social inequalities, income inequalities, empowerment, adaptability, economic inequality and poverty, and environmental justice themes.

The Results: Literature review

Environment Sustainability

Climate change feature in the social work curriculum through environmental sustainability. Human health is linked to the well-being of the environment. Thus, the social work profession must incorporate the physical and natural environment into the outside impact that leads to human well-being. According to Wu et al. (2022), interventions by social work communities include supporting human well-being and health to advance their social development. The article continues to allude that in the wake of climate change mitigations, addressing environmental sustainability in the rural setting has been a primary concern (Wu et al., 2022). Despite environmental sustainability being an issue to help mitigate climate change, Wu et al. (2022) posit that social work education has not fully integrated environmental sustainability into practice, especially in the rural context. Thus, since the concept of environmental sustainability focuses on vulnerable populations, there is a need for local knowledge and advocacy of the autonomy of decisions (Wu et al., 2022). Further, the article, which utilized a systematic review to conclude its findings, elucidated that there should be a change in neoliberal and systematic policies prioritizing consumerism over environmental sustainability in social work curricula (Wu et al., 2022). This concept is supported by Khan et al. (2019), who suggested that regulatory authorities have been unable to effectively use environmental sustainability policies to control climate change in the contemporary world.

Social Inequalities

Climate change also features in the social work curriculum through social inequality. According to Khan et al. (2019), even though there is proof that climate change is occurring, public opinion designates that many humans lack awareness of the issue. Thus, climate change concerns vary from one social class to another. According to Cox et al. (2020), from inside and outside the social work profession, powerful social inequalities, poverty, and political discourses continue to hinder humans from understanding what is happening. Further, the article recommends that due to rapid shifting times, there is a need for attention to theorizing social work practice in the profession’s education. If people of different social classes have theoretical knowledge, they will be able to deal with climate change. Hess and Collins (2018) elucidate that students acquire skills needed to learn contemporary issues through general education and can incorporate the knowledge into their future profession. Islam and Winkel (2017) posit that there is evidence to show that climate change and social inequalities are characterized by a vicious cycle that causes these disadvantaged groups to suffer the effects resulting in greater subsequent inequality. Thus according to Hess and Collins (2018), pervasive climate change propaganda will reduce if universities were to include the topic within the social work curriculum.

Economic Inequalities

Global warming has subsequently impacted global economic inequalities. Thus, income inequality is an issue in social work that can be featured in its curriculum. For instance, due to climate change, the poorest households in Egypt, Syria, Algeria, and Yemen in 2014 experienced higher losses on fish, livestock, and crops than affluent communities (Islam & Winkel, 2017). According to Diffenbaugh and Burke (2019), anthropogenic climate forces have negatively impacted economic equality between countries. Further, the article posits that the poorest counties’ GDP has reduced by 17–31% (Differnbaugh & Burke, 2019). Still, in the same article, the study found a higher likelihood of economic inequalities being decreased by global warming; thus, the relationship between economic growth and climate change (Differnbaugh & Burke, 2019). Thus, comprehending economic inequality causes is vital to achieving equitable economic development (Diffenbaugh & Burke (2019). According to Hess and Collins (2018), universities are poised as economic innovators. Economic inequalities can also be integrated into the curriculum through social sustainability. According to (Boetto, 2018), it is vital to support environmental sustainability with ontological philosophies that distinguish the interdependency between the natural world and civilization and restrictions on economic growth. Transformative change to extend social work’s orthodox philosophical base in curriculum and practice frameworks can include the incorporation of revision of professional guidelines, critical reflexivity, and perspective transformation documents.


Climate change can be featured in the social work curriculum through empowerment. According to (Wu & Greig, 2022), social worker practitioners provide consulting services after a disaster. The practitioners also coordinate society-based agencies and map community-based resources that address catastrophe survivors’ social needs and health during recovery stages and post-disaster reconstruction (Wu & Greig, 2022). Accordingly, social workers empower the local leadership to create community-based mitigation, develop community-based alleviation strategies, and develop pre-disaster plans. Similarly, according to Joseph (2019), the empowerment theory is a robust framework in the social work field. Further, the source alludes that the theory is vital as it has been commonly utilized by researchers and scholars (Joseph, 2019). However, social worker practitioners profoundly rely on empowerment theories for climate change disasters. For instance, empowerment theory recognizes people as active agents in their environments (Joseph, 2019). In this case, proponents of empowerment theory are sensible to the human agency regarding their environmental relationship. Joseph (2019) alludes that interpersonal empowerment calls for self-awareness, while the interactional element allows a person to interact with the external world by acquiring skills, thus, becoming an active political and social activist for climate change. Thus, if empowerment can be taught in social work in connection to climate change, practitioners will have a way to help people cope after a disaster. They can also have the skills to train others.


In social work, adaptation is a way of taking advantage of new opportunities to reduce the adverse effects of climate change. Thus, adaptability is a theme in social work that practitioners can integrate into specific social theories, such as the critical reflex theory. According to Boetto (2018), the critical reflex is a way to unite theory and practice. The article continues to allude that the critical reflexivity theory explores, analyzes theories, and identifies personal assumptions about altering human beliefs and linked behaviors. Thus, this theory can integrate adaptability into the social work curriculum to help mitigate climate change. According to Boetto (2018), more reflective strategies permit social workers to decide based on their logical rigor to lighten prevailing modernist expectations in the welfare and state sectors. Without the rigor, social worker practitioners are ‘proficiently conspiring in oppression’ by obliquely depending on an unfortunate ontological base that underpins oppressive strategical hierarchies that lead to climate change. Kim et al. (2018) concur with Boetto (2018), as the study elucidates that risk-based policies can be built by the national flood insurance project to ensure adaptive capacity and improve resilience to mitigate climate change risks further. The article further articulates that pliability to climate mitigation risk is systematically complex due to environmental, social, and economic interdependency (Kim et al., 2018). According to Kim et al. (2018), pliability connects a network of adaptive capacities (to adaptation after a disruption or misfortune, like in the case of climate change.

Income Inequality

Climate change can feature in the social work curriculum through income inequalities. People must understand that income inequality is a huge part of climate change risk. A study by Kim et al. (2018) found that climate change was more prone in countries with high poverty levels, income disparities, tornadoes, and housing inequalities. For instance, in 2016, the U.N. quoted that multiple inequalities defined by education, income, and race were the significant factors that amplified the vulnerability and exposure of humans, predominantly poor African countries, and Americans to hurricanes (Kim et al., 2018). However, the article further suggests that climate justice is pivoted through illuminating health, income, and food security as the intersection of political systems, overall human well-being, and climate change at all levels. However, people will never understand the association between income inequality and climate change without education and practice. A study by Spokane (2019) confirmed that social worker practitioners conducted an assessment to address the people’s level of destitution and vulnerability due to income and poverty loss caused by climate change. According to the article, one of the risk factors for experiencing climate change or natural disasters in a rural area are the social and physical location, lack of education and data, and political will (Spokane, 2019). Therefore, if the aspect of income inequality is incorporated into the social worker curriculum, it will be helpful in climate change mitigation through awareness.

Environmental Justice

Environmental justice is a branch of social work within sustainable development. According to (Rambaree, 2020), social work is featured as emancipatory and transformative in its curriculum and practice. Thus, professionals in this field have the values, skills, and knowledge to make social change. According to Rambaree (2020), this social change can be guided by principles and emancipatory human rights values and social change at the societal, group, or individual levels. Further, the article alludes that it is argued that these professionals have the obligation and ethical duty to create mechanisms and conditions for a better living environment for all humans (Rambaree (2020). Like Rambaree (2020), Thomas et al. (2018) agree with this perception. For instance, the article posits that climate change is experienced where people reside; thus, many features of sensitivity, exposure, and adaptive capacities are context-meticulous.

Further, the article suggests that humans have developed complex ways of adapting to climate change based on practice and knowledge (Thomas et al., 2018). Recognizing such local practices helps people prevent climate change. Additionally, social workers have a vital role in humanizing climate change by educating on environmental justice. Wu et al. (2022) allude that environmental justice should be encouraged through policy advocacy and training. A study by Rambaree (2020) showed that most students want social work to incorporate climate change into the curriculum. They have a professional, ethical obligation to advocate for environmental justice and ensure environmental respect. Other participants believed that environmental justice could be achieved if social workers could be involved in the political arena (Rambaree, 2020). Therefore, social work teaching about environmental justice is a way of climate change mitigation, and its inclusion in the curriculum is vital.

Result Discussion

Climate change can be featured through the social worker curriculum. All the fourteen articles discussed supported these aspects as each discussed a theme that can be incorporated into the social work curriculum. The theme included empowerment, adaptability, income inequality, economic inequality, environmental sustainability, environmental justice, and social inequalities. Additionally, most articles alluded that social work is vital in climate change mitigation through the aforementioned themes. However, two articles discussed the theoretical framework of social work and climate change. One article discussed the empowerment theory, and the other talked about critical reflex theory, which social work professionals can use in the wake of climate change mitigations. However, most articles were direct about curriculum integration; thus, the study calls for further research.


Climate change is the continuing variations in weather and temperature patterns. The shifts are majorly human activities through carbon dioxide and methane emissions. However, most people are unaware of this fact or even the effects of climate change. Thus, social worker practitioners can use this knowledge gained through training.

The discussion shows that mental health among college students can be reduced through counseling and medical use. Therefore, all colleges should have mental health services to counsel and treat students; mental health conditions. However, no schools should discriminate against students, interventions or treatments for mental health conditions.

The Reference List

Boetto, H. (2018). “Advancing transformative eco-social change: Shifting from modernist to Holistic Foundations,” Australian Social Work, 72(2), pp. 139–151. Available at:

Cox, D. et al. (2020). “Theoretical frameworks in Social Work Education: A scoping review,” Social Work Education, 40(1), pp. 18–43. Available at:

Diffenbaugh, N.S. and Burke, M. (2019). “Global warming has increased global economic inequality,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(20), pp. 9808–9813. Available at:

Hess, D.J. and Collins, B.M. (2018) “Climate change and higher education: Assessing factors that affect curriculum requirements,” Journal of Cleaner Production, 170, pp. 1451–1458. Available at:

Islam, N. and Winkel, J., 2017. Climate Change and Social Inequality (Department of Economic & Social Affairs). United Nations.

Joseph, R. (2019). “The theory of empowerment: A critical analysis with the theory evaluation scale,” Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 30(2), pp. 138–157. Available at:

Khan, S.A. et al. (2019). “Environmental, social and Economic Growth Indicators Spur Logistics Performance: From the perspective of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Countries,” Journal of Cleaner Production, 214, pp. 1011–1023. Available at:

Khan, S.A. et al. (2019). “Environmental, social and Economic Growth Indicators Spur Logistics Performance: From the perspective of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Countries,” Journal of Cleaner Production, 214, pp. 1011–1023. Available at:

Kim, H., Marcouiller, D.W., and Woosnam, K.M. (2018) “Rescaling Social Dynamics in climate change: The implications of cumulative exposure, climate justice, and Community Resilience,” Geoforum, 96, pp. 129–140. Available at:

Rambaree, K. (2020). “Environmental, social work: Implications for accelerating the implementation of sustainable development in social work curricula,” International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 21(3), pp. 557–574. Available at:

Spokane, A.L. (2019) “Social Work Assessment of Climate Change: Case of disasters in Greater Tzaneen Municipality,” Jàmbá Journal of Disaster Risk Studies, 11(3). Available at:

Thomas, K. et al. (2018). “Explaining differential vulnerability to climate change: A social science review,” WIREs Climate Change, 10(2). Available at:

Wu, H. and Greig, M. (2022). “Adaptability, Interdisciplinarity, engageability: Critical reflections on green social work teaching and training,” Healthcare, 10(7), p. 1245. Available at:

Wu, H., Greig, M. and Bryan, C. (2022). “Promoting Environmental Justice and Sustainability in Social Work Practice in a rural community: A systematic review,” Social Sciences, 11(8), p. 336. Available at:


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