I Believe But Don’t Know What To Do: Climate Change Scepticism, Knowledge and Preparedness to Act Amongst Youth
Climate change (CC) is widely acknowledged, but human behaviour has been inadequate in mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the major cause of anthropogenic CC.Individual-level behaviours account for a significant proportion of anthropogenic GHG emissions, andyouth must become accustomed to a lifestyle of 2.1 annual tonnes of emissions per person per year by 2050 to avoid an increase in warming of 2°C. Low CC knowledge and high scepticism have previously been associated with CC inaction in adults. Here we sought to determine the extent of CC scepticism and knowledge amongst 477 Canadian students 17-18 years old, and their perceptions of how their schooling has prepared them for a low carbon lifestyle. The most cited sourcesfor CC information were the internet (76%), school (65%) and social media (52%).While CC scepticism was low overall, respondents with higher scepticism showed greater intent to vote for a conservative party (Χ²=19.31, p<.001), and a small positive correlation was observed between scepticism and religiosity (r=.168, p<.002).Objective CC knowledge was relatively low (59% correct responses), while subjective confidence in CC knowledge was only weakly associated with objective knowledge (r=.252, p<.001).Importantly, participants withgreater objective CC knowledge were more likely to believe that their individual lifestyle choices could mitigate CC (Χ²=11.55, p<.001).Overall, respondents did not believe their school had educated them well on CC or GHG-reducing behaviors. Our findings inform development of high school curricula and policies to equip youth with the knowledge and skills to adopt and maintain low carbon lifestyles.
Keywords - Environmental Psychology, Climate Change Beliefs, Climate Change Mitigation, Youth