Youth’s participation in climate change actions and initiatives has been growing since the founding of the Fridays for Future (FFF), a global climate strike movement for the youth that Greta Thunberg inspired.
Greta has successfully raised awareness about threats of climate change and how it will affect their future. Therefore, they have a vested interest in it and have the right to demand actions from authorities to fight climate change.
But how has climate change affected the youth, are there differences in their concerns, experience, and actions regarding the issue? And what about the disadvantaged youth? What is their level of understanding and awareness of climate change, climate policies, climate adaptation, and how has it affected their engagement.
Research investigating the diversity of young people’s concerns, experiences, and actions on climate has emerged. However, this body of knowledge is still in its beginning stages, especially from the perspective of disadvantaged youths.
In a study published in April 2021, Davis and Hügel explored the extent of participation in climate adaptation planning of disadvantaged youth in Ireland. It examined the impacts of educational intervention on capacity building among disadvantaged youth to encourage them to participate in climate change adaptation planning.
According to the authors, despite the calls for the Irish government for a just transition to a decarbonised future, the opportunities and resources given to disadvantaged communities to allow them to engage and participate in climate adaptation actions have been lacking, this limits their understanding and active engagement on of climate change issues.
A survey of young people during climate marches in Dublin in 2019 revealed that young people are interested in knowing more about climate change science, policy processes, and having a voice in policy decisions.
To encourage the disadvantaged youths to participate in more climate adaptation planning, researchers deemed that the best way to start is to increase their knowledge in climate change and climate adaptation. They have conducted a series of place-based interactive workshops to engage young people in adaption planning.
The workshops revealed that young people are more enthusiastic and participative when the materials capture their local context and use the climate vulnerabilities of their environment.
For example, disadvantaged youths in the study are living in Dublin’s inner city. The city is experiencing a sea-level rise and is vulnerable to pluvial, fluvial, and coastal flooding. These climatic events are predicted to increase due to climate change.
The study suggests that it is crucial to encourage them to connect climate change with their “lived environments when educating youth on climate change.” This way, they will understand why climate action in one area is challenging, why it can take longer, and how they can engage or participate, for example, through youth councils, open consultation, strikes, and marches.
During the workshops, researchers also highlighted how computer algorithms could influence perceptions and reactions towards climate change, especially if computer images or information on climate change affects another place or people, something that they cannot easily identify or relate with. This can enforce psychological distance towards climate change and can hinder adaptation.
After participating in the workshops, youths have expressed that their knowledge bout climate change, adaptation and flooding has increased.
Awareness that climate change is already happening and affecting them can overcome psychological distance towards climate
Overall the study concludes that “what is needed to help ensure procedural justice around climate action in Ireland are specific, relevant and interactive educational interventions on the issue of climate change adaptation; interventions which are sensitive to matters of place and difference.”
To read the entire study, click the link below:
Davies, A. & Hügel, S. (2021, April 28). Just Adapt: Engaging Disadvantaged Young People in Planning for Climate Adaptation. Cogitatio. Retrieved from https://www.cogitatiopress.com/politicsandgovernance/article/view/3892