Responses to climate change: a global survey

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Climate anxiety in children and young people and their beliefs about government responses to climate change: a global survey


Climate change has important implications for the health and futures of children and young people, yet they have little power to limit its harm, making them vulnerable to climate anxiety. This is the first large-scale investigation of climate anxiety in children and young people globally and its relationship with perceived government response.


We surveyed 10 000 children and young people (aged 16–25 years) in ten countries (Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Portugal, the UK, and the USA; 1000 participants per country). Invitations to complete the survey were sent via the platform Kantar between May 18 and June 7, 2021. Data were collected on participants’ thoughts and feelings about climate change, and government responses to climate change. Descriptive statistics were calculated for each aspect of climate anxiety, and Pearson’s correlation analysis was done to evaluate whether climate-related distress, functioning, and negative beliefs about climate change were linked to thoughts and feelings about government response.


Respondents across all countries were worried about climate change (59% were very or extremely worried and 84% were at least moderately worried). More than 50% reported each of the following emotions: sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty. More than 45% of respondents said their feelings about climate change negatively affected their daily life and functioning, and many reported a high number of negative thoughts about climate change (eg, 75% said that they think the future is frightening and 83% said that they think people have failed to take care of the planet). Respondents rated governmental responses to climate change negatively and reported greater feelings of betrayal than of reassurance. Climate anxiety and distress were correlated with perceived inadequate government response and associated feelings of betrayal.
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In response to our first research question, which was how children and young people around the world report emotional, cognitive, and functional responses to climate change, respondents across all countries reported a large amount of worry, with almost 60% saying they felt “very” or “extremely” worried about climate change (mean score of 3·7 on a scale from 1 to 5 [SD 1·7]). More than 45% of respondents said their feelings about climate change negatively affected their daily lives; the proportion of respondents varied by country but was consistently high (figure 1; appendix p 4). Countries expressing more worry and a greater impact on functioning tended to be poorer, in the Global South, and more directly impacted by climate change; in the Global North, Portugal (which had dramatic increases in wildfires since 2017) showed the highest level of worry.

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