Latest UNICEF poll reveals limited understanding of climate change among young people

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8th December 2023 – (United Nations) A recent poll conducted by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Gallup has unveiled a concerning lack of understanding regarding climate change among children and young people. Despite a high level of awareness, with 85 per cent of surveyed individuals aged 15-24 from 55 countries reporting they have heard of climate change, only 50 per cent provided an accurate definition. The results of the poll were released on Thursday, coinciding with the gathering of world leaders in Dubai for the annual UN Climate Change Conference (COP28).

Participants were presented with two options to define climate change: “seasonal changes in weather that occur every year” or “more extreme weather events and a rise in average world temperatures resulting from human activity.” The latter option, aligning with the definition outlined in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, was the correct response.

In a press release, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell acknowledged the vital role young people have played in advocating for climate action, both on the streets and in meeting rooms. She emphasized the need to ensure that all children and young individuals comprehend the crisis that looms over their future. Russell called upon leaders attending COP28 to commit to comprehensive education on climate change for young people, inclusion of their perspectives in discussions, and engagement in decisions that will shape their lives for years to come.

The poll revealed that knowledge levels were lowest in lower-middle- and low-income countries, which are often the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. For instance, only 19 per cent of respondents from Pakistan, 26 per cent from Sierra Leone, and 37 per cent from Bangladesh provided the correct definition. UNICEF highlighted these countries in its Children’s Climate Risk Index released in 2021, classifying children in these regions as being at extremely high risk, as climate change and environmental degradation pose threats to their health, education, and overall well-being, exposing them to life-threatening diseases.