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Opinions of 12 to 13-year-olds in Austria and Australia on the concern, cause and imminence of climate change

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Early adolescence (12–13 years old) is a critical but under-researched demographic for the formation of attitudes related to climate change. We address this important area by exploring adolescent views about climate change. This paper presents opinions collected from surveys of 463 1st-year secondary school students (12–13 years old) in public secondary schools in inner-urban centres in Austria and Australia on whether climate change is (1) something about which to worry, (2) caused by humans and (3) happening now. Eligible respondents in both countries showed similar levels of agreement that climate change was probably or definitely something we should (1) worry about (84.6% Austria, 89.1% Australia), which is significantly higher than either country’s adult population. Eligible respondents agreed that climate change probably or definitely is (2) caused by humans (75.6% Austria, 83.6% Australia) and that climate change is probably or definitely something that is (3) happening now (73.1% Austria, 87.5% Australia). Their response differed from the respective adult populations, but in opposite directions. Our results suggest that socio-cultural worldview may not have as much influence on this age group as it does on the respective adult populations and suggests that this age group would be receptive and ready for climate science education and engagement initiatives.

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The authors would like to thank Ms Michel Watson, Ms Mita Anggaryani, and Ms Jennifer Colley, CPAS, The Australian National University; Ms Quita Olsen and Dr Johanna Kurscheid, Department of Global Health, The Australian National University (assisted in data collection and monitoring of class lessons). Inez Harker-Schuch was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship. Dr Steven Lade receives support from the Swedish Research Council Formas (Project Grant 2014-589).

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Correspondence to Inez Harker-Schuch.

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Harker-Schuch, I., Lade, S., Mills, F. et al. Opinions of 12 to 13-year-olds in Austria and Australia on the concern, cause and imminence of climate change. Ambio 50, 644–660 (2021).

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