Despite the scale of the predicted impact of climate change on future generations, most of the academic literature investigating perceptions of climate change relates to adults or young adults rather than children and adolescents. In this review, we synthesize literature relating to 8- to 19-year-old's perceptions and understandings of climate change, in order to identify trends and inconsistencies, potential gaps in knowledge, and directions for future research. A comprehensive search strategy identified 51 international studies, using quantitative (n = 36), qualitative (n = 9), and mixed methods (n = 6). The included studies date from 1993 to 2018. The analysis outlines levels of reported belief and concern about climate change and perceptions of its causes and consequences. It also details reported perceptions of viable solutions to climate change and notions of responsibility for implementing these. Scientifically accurate knowledge generally increased with age, although misconceptions persisted across the age range. In some studies, younger children expressed greater concern and were more willing to take action than older adolescents. Levels of belief, concern, and willingness to take action were lower in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia than in other countries. In conclusion, we discuss potential explanations for these age and place-related differences, examining the age-related findings in the context of concepts and theories in developmental psychology. We outline the limitations of our review and the reviewed studies, and note potential avenues for future research and implications for educational policy and practice. This article is categorized under: Perceptions, Behavior, and Communication of Climate Change > Perceptions of Climate Change.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere641
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews : Climate Change
Issue number3
Early online date22 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • adolescents
  • children
  • climate change
  • review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Atmospheric Science


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