What Could Youth-Led Climate Action Look Like?


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© Freepik/Drobotdean

The Climate Action Lab released a report for Canadian youth concerns on climate change

What should climate progress look like? A recent report from Climate Action Lab captured some of the concerns and hopes of youth across Canada.

It found that teens feel like society is asking them to fix the “end of the world” through self-discipline. Students want climate action to be a positive social experience that is connected, experiential, nature-based, and aligned with their life goals.

The Climate Action Lab is powered by Let’s Talk Science, a national charitable organization that offers STEM-based programs to support youth, educators, parents and volunteers. The project team included 82 high school students supported by 16 university student coaches. The teens learned to lead ethnographic and community-based research.

“Something really great to see is that most teens are really interested in learning about climate action, climate change and how they can get involved. They especially want to know how to apply their learning to real life and how to be impactful.” — University Student Coach

As the report noted, climate-related outcomes are converging: more violent and unpredictable weather, unprecedented biodiversity loss, precarious food production, climate migration linked to socio-political instability, and pollution threatening human health. The report identified four promising opportunity areas to explore from a youth perspective.

This is the world today’s youth will live in and lead. So it’s imperative to include them in the climate discussion. The report uncovered barriers that prevent youth from taking action and highlighted opportunities for climate action programming that are relevant for youth.

One barrier to greater action is that youth lack the power to make choices that will make a significant difference quickly. They don’t feel heard by adults and don’t see adults (especially government and industry) taking enough action.

Youth also want to feel they’ve made a difference. Simply reading about climate science and abstract metrics like greenhouse gases and carbon calculators doesn’t get them there.

Another obstacle is framing climate action around stopping something, e.g. don’t buy new clothes, drive, or travel. Yet these pleasures are also associated with coming of age. Moreover, current approaches to climate action often involve individual efforts; doing things alone as a teenager can induce anxiety. Teens already navigate a lot. When climate action isn’t giving them anything but worry, it’s easy to ignore.

The report identified several best practices to overcome these barriers:

  • To drive youth climate engagement, focus climate learning on real-life solutions, and make climate action about helping people.
  • Incorporate time in nature and hopeful content to both propel climate action and help youth disconnect from stress.
  • Adopt different ways of teaching and learning, e.g. outdoor education, fieldwork, green job training, co-ops, internships and apprenticeships.
  • Design ways for students to relate climate action to what they find motivating. Focus on the present, not on something good for “the future.”
  • Offer numerous options (e.g. timing, location) and inclusive experiences for broad participation.

“We’re living at an inflection point when our collective decisions will have tremendous impact,” the report stated. “Young people must be engaged now to ensure equitable, long-term, positive and sustainable climate action.”

Read the full report at letstalkscience.ca/climate-action-lab-report

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Let’s Talk Science is committed to preparing youth in Canada for future careers and citizenship demands in a rapidly changing world.


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